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Alabama state law regarding wrongful termination lawsuits

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JMRZ

Member
TLDR: I'd like someone to precisely verify what qualifies as wrongful termination according to Alabama statutes, and Federal statutes.

I've working for this employer for two years and have been suffering from medical problems that are unrelated to the workplace. I have had three emergency situations within the last two years that have prevented me from working each time; I've been able to document and provide my employer with proof that I was unable to show up to work and that my medical issues are legitimate and unforeseeable. I was threatened to be terminated the other day over another unpredictable medical emergency that I had no control over, and I am wondering if it is possible for me to be terminated given these circumstances. I even made several attempts to speak with my superiors about the situation, but was told that I have been classified as a no call/no show (despite my evidence to the contrary) and that I was going to be terminated on those grounds. What is the law regarding wrongful termination due to medical emergencies in the state of Alabama and the federal government? This behavior from my employer is certainly immoral, and unethical but I'd like to know if I have any legal recourse in this situation. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you (in advance) for reading all this and I appreciate and read everly single response.
 


quincy

Senior Member
TLDR: I'd like someone to precisely verify what qualifies as wrongful termination according to Alabama statutes, and Federal statutes.

I've working for this employer for two years and have been suffering from medical problems that are unrelated to the workplace. I have had three emergency situations within the last two years that have prevented me from working each time; I've been able to document and provide my employer with proof that I was unable to show up to work and that my medical issues are legitimate and unforeseeable. I was threatened to be terminated the other day over another unpredictable medical emergency that I had no control over, and I am wondering if it is possible for me to be terminated given these circumstances. I even made several attempts to speak with my superiors about the situation, but was told that I have been classified as a no call/no show (despite my evidence to the contrary) and that I was going to be terminated on those grounds. What is the law regarding wrongful termination due to medical emergencies in the state of Alabama and the federal government? This behavior from my employer is certainly immoral, and unethical but I'd like to know if I have any legal recourse in this situation. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you (in advance) for reading all this and I appreciate and read everly single response.
Alabama does not have any wrongful termination laws.

Here is a link to the EEOC on Prohibited Employment Policies and Practices:
 

Taxing Matters

Overtaxed Member
TLDR: I'd like someone to precisely verify what qualifies as wrongful termination according to Alabama statutes, and Federal statutes.
There isn't any statute in Alabama or federal law that is called "wrongful termination" and lays out all the things that amount to wrongful termination. Rather, the term wrongful termination refers to any termination for a reason that the law prohibits. And there are lot of different laws that prohibit termination in various circumstances. The prohibited reasons include firing you because:
  • of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or genetic test information under federal law (some states/localities add a few more categories like sexual orientation);
  • you make certain kinds of reports about the employer to the government or in limited circumstances to specified persons in the employing company itself (known as whistle-blower protection laws);
  • you participate in union organizing activities;
  • you use a right or benefit the law guarantees you (e.g. using leave under FMLA);
  • you filed a bankruptcy petition;
  • your pay was garnished by a single creditor; and
  • you took time off work to attend jury duty (in most states).
The exact list of prohibited reasons will vary by state. Alabama is not a state that provides a whole lot of protection against termination.

I've working for this employer for two years and have been suffering from medical problems that are unrelated to the workplace. I have had three emergency situations within the last two years that have prevented me from working each time; I've been able to document and provide my employer with proof that I was unable to show up to work and that my medical issues are legitimate and unforeseeable. I was threatened to be terminated the other day over another unpredictable medical emergency that I had no control over, and I am wondering if it is possible for me to be terminated given these circumstances.
Most private employment in the U.S. is "at will" which means that both you and the employer are free to end the employment relationship at any time for any reason, except that for employers there are some reasons they cannot fire you for, as I mentioned above. As a result, employers are free to terminate you for missing work, even if the reason you miss work is for medical problems, unless some law says otherwise.

And the one law that might help you is the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your employer has to be pretty large to be subject to the FMLA, and you have to meet certain requirements as to how much time you have worked for the employer over the last year to qualify for it. But if you do qualify for it the law guarantees you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with medical issues. You'll find more information on that from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) here: employee guide to FMLA. If you are entitled to FMLA leave and the employer fires you for requesting that leave then that would be a wrongful termination and you could sue for that. But if you don't meet the requirements for it — either the employer is too small to be covered by the law or you don't meet the number of hours worked — then the FMLA doesn't help you and there is no other federal law that would give you a right to time off for health issues.

Some states like California have their own medical leave laws that cover more than the federal law does, but Alabama (like most southern states) is not one of them.

So for your situation, the bottom line is that the employer may fire you for missing work for health problems unless you are entitled to leave under the federal FMLA. And even under FMLA, once you use up your 12 weeks in a year, the employer may fire you for taking off anything over those 12 weeks.
 

TheGeekess

Keeper of the Kraken
To add to TM's discussion on FMLA: You have to apply for it. It does not just happen. There is paperwork that has to be done before it is granted by the employer.
 

commentator

Senior Member
If you have a specific on-going medical problem or issue, (such as cancer treatments or ulcerative colitis or a bad back) you definitely need to let the employer know what is going on. In fact you should have already done this.

But when you say three medical situations in the last two years, and then lately ANOTHER medical situation, I draw the conclusion that they were three/four sort of unrelated medical problems, like once you had the flu, once you had a kidney stone, etc. FMLA isn't going to be too helpful in these types of situations. They are required to give you, if they are a large enough company, and you've worked for them long enough, and worked enough hours in the year, 12 weeks in a year off for a health condition, but not for random incidences of bad health.

It would be tremendously to your advantage if you were fully aware of the company's attendance policies and where you are in the situation, as to how many unexcused absences you have, what they say is adequate to get you terminated, etc. Most of the time, this will be in the company handbook. Have you had formal warnings, have you been told that one more absence will get you fired?

Any time you are going to have to be out, at this point in the issue, if you've been told you are in danger of being terminated, you should obtain a medical statement for any absence. This will NOT prevent the employer from firing you, they can still perfectly legally fire you with a doctor's excuse in hand. But it will help with your chances of being approved for unemployment benefits. And unemployment benefits will be important in this case for several reasons while you are seeking another job.

In the first place, if you are fired from a job in most southeastern states, and I do believe Alabama is one, and you are denied unemployment insurance, you are likely to be sanctioned from receiving any other form of public assistance such as SNAP and Medicaid for some period of time. Being terminated for violation of the company's absence policies is something very likely to get you denied unemployment insurance, unless you have a medical excuse for that last absence, the one that got you fired. So if something else happens and you are forced to be out again, go to a doctor or medical treatment facility if at all possible.

And then, as the general wisdom goes, in most work situations a no call/no show will usually get you fired, even if you have a lot of great excuses. In fact, unless you are hit by a bus or blown away by a tornado or are in a coma in intensive care, don't be a no call no show unless you want to be fired legally and legally denied unemployment benefits. That you later show up or call in and say you were throwing up isn't going to cut it. Almost every employer handbook there is will have something about no call/no show being grounds for dismissal.

Many people believe they have a lot more protections and rights under the employment laws of this country than they do. And in the employer friendly southeast, you have the minimal least amount of protection provided to you by the federal government. And that isn't much. In fact, a wrongful termination is something that right off hand, I'd say most people in Alabama will never see in their lifetime, though they may have vaguely heard about them and heard rumors that they exist. You know, like a reindeer. or a yeti.
 

cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
To qualify for FMLA, ALL of the following must be true:

1.) You must have worked for the current employer for a minimum of 12 months (which need not be continuous)
2.) In the last 12 months (which must be continuous) you have worked for this employer a minimum of 1,250 hours
3.) The employer must have a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles of your location.
4.) You or a qualified dependent/beneficiary must have a serious health condition as defined by the FMLA statute.

https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/10c2.aspx

If even one of the above criteria does not apply, then you are not entitled to FMLA.

FMLA can be intermittent or it can be in a block. Either way, it is limited to 12 weeks. A qualified employee is entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA per 12 month period. Not 12 weeks per condition. Not 12 weeks per dependent/beneficiary. 12 weeks only. On week 13, day 1, your employer may legally terminate you no matter how legitimate the need for additional medical leave or how many doctor's notes you have.

Although the Geekess is correct that you need to apply for FMLA, (assuming that FMLA applies) IF the employer is aware that you have a possible FMLA-qualifying condition, they need to offer it. Assuming that both you and the employer qualify and that they know you have a potentially qualifying condition, they should offer you the paperwork and give you 15 days to return it. This is the one and only situation in which the doctor gets to tell the employer what to do. The doctor's word on whether the condition qualifies under FMLA is final, so as long as the doctor agrees and you turn the paperwork in within 15 days, the condition that is listed in the paperwork is protected. A few more points that you need to be aware of:

1.) ONLY the condition listed in the doctor's paperwork is protected. If your doctor authorized FMLA for migraines and you call out with the flu, that is NOT protected. You would need to get entirely new paperwork for the flu and it would still be the same 12 weeks - I want to reiterate that you get 12 weeks for all conditions combined, NOT 12 weeks per condition.

2.) Even after FMLA has been authorized, you are responsible for following your employer's call in procedures (if the FMLA is intermittent). While you cannot be fired or disciplined for applying for or using FMLA, you can be disciplined for not following call in procedures and you can be fired or disciplined for non-qualifying absences.

3.) There are several different ways to count the 12 month period. It is the opt of the employer, not the employee, which 12 month period is used. However, it must be the same for all employees - he cannot pick and choose from one employee to the next.

4.) FMLA does not protect you from a termination that would have happened anyway; FMLA only protects you from being absent for protected medical reasons. If you have poor performance, FMLA does not keep you from being fired. If you violate a policy, FMLA does not keep you from being fired. If your employer has a downsizing and your entire department is let go, FMLA does not keep you from being fired.

If FMLA does not apply, or if your FMLA has been exhausted, then firing you for excessive absences, even if medically based, is not a wrongful termination under either Federal or Alabama law. If FMLA does apply AND you have applied for it AND if the 12 weeks has not yet expired, then firing you for a protected medical absence would qualify as a wrongful term.
 
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JMRZ

Member
Thank you all for taking the time to read and reply to my thread. I'll be working my way through each response with specifics, but thank you; each and every one of you.
 
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