Termination: can I be fired for legitimate absences?

My employment was terminated due to absence. My absences were related to pregnancy issues at first and then for problems related to an injury that occurred at work. Is this fair?

If you followed all your employer’s rules regarding work absences and your work-related injury qualifies under worker’s compensation, you may be able to file a claim under that umbrella, according to Johns, Flaherty & Collins employment law attorney Ellen Frantz. An administrative law judge would hear your case and if your employer indeed terminated you without reasonable cause, the employer would need to pay you an amount equal to a year’s wages.

Regarding pregnancy-related absences, larger employers — those with 50 or more employees — would be required to follow the Family Medical Leave Act and give people time off for medical problems related to pregnancy. Smaller companies are not required to do so. But all employers are subject to pregnancy discrimination laws, requiring them to treat pregnant employees the same as all others. That would mean you may have a discrimination claim if other employees also had excessive absences but did not get terminated.

Frantz notes you may also be eligible for unemployment compensation as long as there was no misconduct involved and you are physically able to work. Misconduct is generally defined as an intentional act on an employee’s part that violates the employer’s interest. Properly reported, legitimate absences do not qualify as misconduct.

For more information on employment law in Wisconsin, contact Ellen Frantz at 608-784-5678.

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