I would agree with the previous answer. Ultimately, it depends whether you were eligible for FMLA leave because then your employer would have to return you to your past job. If you were merely on on company leave, maybe taking short term disability, then your employer would have no legal obligation to return you to your job. I would suggest contacting a local employment law attorney for a consultation. Best of luck to you.
I am a California attorney and not eligible to give legal advice in your state. The following is information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT PROVIDE SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION.
There are various sources of POTENTIAL protection for illness and medical leave, but none specifies a specific distance. That's not how law works. Laws are written to apply broadly to many different situations; the laws that apply to you in Merriville, IN should apply to everyone throughout the state. Sometimes, cities or counties enact laws (called ordinances) that apply within local borders, so you could check locally for that. However, this is not the kind of things laws typically include. Instead, many laws use a "reasonableness" standard. What is reasonable in terms of distance, job duties, pay, etc. varies depending on numerous factors.
There is limited protection if the sickness is due to a serious medical condition as that is defined by law. Please look at my Avvo guide on the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. section 2101 et seq. (FMLA) to see if that law applies in your situation: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=family-and-medical-leave-fmla-summary-of-key-provisions
If the sickness is due to a disability as defined by law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. sections 12101 et seq. (ADA) may provide some protection. Please look at my Avvo guide on the ADA: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/employment-disability-protection-under-californias-fair-employment-and-housing-act-and-federal-ada
Your state may have laws that protect employees in your situation, but as I am not licensed in your state, I cannot advise you on this. Please contact an attorney licensed in your state.
Finally, if the sickness is due to on-the-job injury or is caused by work, your state's workers' compensation laws may provide some relief.
Employment law is complicated and fact specific. You may wish to consult with an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney in your state. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in your area, please go to the web site of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). NELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the country for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.nela.org, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.
Also, NELA has affiliates in every state and in many cities. On the NELA web site, you can look at the list of affiliates. Some attorneys will be listed in the affiliate membership list, some in the national organization membership list, and some in both. Being listed in one or both lists should not influence your selection because attorneys can choose whether or not to purchase the listing in the national directory. Each local affiliate has its own rules for listing.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***