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How Long Must I Hold a Job for an Employee on Medical Leave?

I have an employee who was released from work with a doctor's note for an undisclosed amount of time. It has been over 180 days and there has been no contact from this employee as to when or if they will be returning to work. I am not sure how long I have to hold their position or job. With economic times as they are, their services are not needed anymore. But I do not want to terminate their employment illegally. Also, since this employee has not contacted me or return phone call placed to them regarding their status, can this be considered "job abandonment"?
This is bad form on the part of the employee. But your company should have a policy in place that instructs people on the proper protocol to follow if they are out of work due to personal illness or injury. It should include a medical certification form that the employee has to have completed by his or her primary physician; and the policy should specify how frequently an updated medical certification form -- with a prognosis and estimated return to work -- should be submitted to the company. The policy should state that a completed form must also be submitted when the employee may return to work and include any accommodations that might be necessary based on the primary physician's advice. The policy also should state that failure to follow the medical leave policy may result in the company declaring that the employee has abandoned his/her job. 

If your company has more than 15 full-time employees, you should adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act and its guidelines. If your company has more than 50 employees, you are subject to the Family Medical and Leave Act, as well and are obliged to follow those regulations.

If you are not at the size to have to adhere to the ADA or the FMLA, you can simply eliminate a job that no longer needs to be done and inform the "employee" (who refuses to communicate with you, evidently) via certified mail to his or her last known address that his or her job has been eliminated. In some cases, you could do this regardless of the size of the company. But it would be wise, if you are subject to ADA or FMLA, to check to see if you had inadvertently violated any of those regulations, and, if so, make corrections to your processes.</p>