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Wrongful termination, now denied Unemployment Claim

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state? Pennsylvania
I was fired back in May from a Fortune 500 Company called RR Donnelley for failure to report on two occasions back to back. The problem I have is that I followed proper procedure in reporting off, and yet I was still fired. It was out of ignorance more than anything that I didn't take any action against the Company. I filed for Unemployment Compensation and it was granted to me although the Company tried to contest it. Now they have filed an appeal and I have a hearing coming up on the 14th of this month. I'm really not sure what to do here. Should I fight the Company for reinstatement and take them to court? They are a Giant in the Printing industry with 30,000 employess Worldwide, they do Billions in revenue every year, and have a host of high powered Attorneys. I'm just a little guy trying to keep the bills paid while living on Unemployment benefits until I can find another job. I don't think I can afford an Attorney.
I've never had so much as a write up from this company as far as my attendance goes. They have strict guidelines if you miss too many days and all warnings and records of conversation are done in writing and the employee has to sign them. There is nothing like that on my record, so why would I all of a sudden fail to report or call in on two occasions? It wouldn't make sense.
I was reported off by a friend who was staying with me because I was very sick. He called in and reported me off "until further notice" and consequently I was Hospitalized for the next eight days. When I was ready for discharge I called the Company to make arrangements to return to work. The Human Resource person told me my employment had been terminated and that a notice was sent to me in writing via the mail. I explained that I followed procedure and she said she would look into it. After reviewing the case they said their position remained unchanged. This to me is wrongful termination.
Now they want to deny me Unemployment Compensation on top of everything else. Any advice on what I should do about these matters would be greatly appreciated.


I'm a Northern Girl
If you HAD tried to take any legal action, you would have found out quickly that you didn't have a case for wrongful termination or anything else.

A great many people do not understand what is meant by a wrongful termination. It is NOT a termination which is unjust, unfair, unexpected, based on incorrect or inaccurate information, for something you did not do, or even, in most cases, one which violates company policy. In order to qualify as a wrongful termination, there must be a specific law which prohibits the employer from terming you for the reason they did. Nothing in your post suggests that this is the case.

The fact that you were granted unemployment does NOT mean that you were wrongfully terminated. There is no connection whatever between unemployment benefits and the legality of a termination. The vast majority of people collecting unemployment were legally terminated.

The law does not require that you be given any warnings or notices before termination unless you have a binding and enforceable contract (not a company handbook, not an offer letter, not an e-mail from your supervisor, a CONTRACT) that says otherwise.

You may have been unfairly terminated. You were not wrongfully terminated.

I find it unlikely that having a friend call you out "until further notice" is in keeping with company guidelines. I wouldn't have fired you but I WOULD have put you directly on final warning. That would not be acceptable in any company I've ever heard of.

The company has as much right to appeal your benefits, as you would have to appeal a denial of your benefits.


Junior Member
thank you.

I was under the impression that I was falsely accused of failing to report and that was used an excuse for firing me. As far as I understood I might have had a case for wrongful termination. I did do some research on this matter but since I have never found myself in a position to need any legal counsel I thought I might get some answers here. I appreciate your feedback.


I'm a Northern Girl
Even if you were "falsely accused" that does not make the termination illegal. For one thing, your definition of false and theirs do not necessarily agree. As I said before, I find it very difficult to believe that company policy finds it acceptable for you to have a non-relative call and say that you will be out until further notice. I wouldn't have allowed that and I don't know of any HR manager who would.

I do have a couple of questions for you. It won't give you a wrongful termination case based on the info you've provided and it won't affect your unemployment case, but there's a very slight chance that it might provide you with a violation to report, if that will make you feel better. :) I can't promise; it will depend on the answers to your questions. IF such a violation does prove to exist, the company MIGHT be required to relax some of the positions they have taken. Mind, this is only a maybe.

1.) How long did you work for this employer?
2.) I understand that they are a large company. How many employees within 75 miles of YOUR location? (How many employees are outside that range is immaterial to what I am asking. I only need to know about that small range.)
3.) Within the last 12 months prior to your termination, had you worked a minimum of 1,250 hours? (Again, I am only concerned with time you actually WORKED. I am not concerned with sick time, vacation time, personal time, holidays, or any other paid time off.)
4.) When your friend called to say that you would be out, did he tell them that you were sick? Or did he just say that you would be off?
5.) At ANY time, did you tell them that you were in the hospital? If so, at what point did you do so?
6.) How much time, total, had you missed in the 12 months prior to your termination?


Junior Member
I worked for the Company a little over 3 years. There are over 3000 employees within a 75 mile radius of the plant which I worked. I worked well over 1,250 hrs. As far as my friend reporting me off, he did say I would be "off until further notice" He mentioned nothing of my being sick. This was a weekend and there is no Supervisor on duty in my department, therefore, we are to report off to whomever is working the prior shift. In my case it was a new employee (she was just hired on permanently after being a temp for about a month) She was not aware of all of our procedures and failed to report me off until further notice. Human Resources told me she stated I was just reported off for that Saturday. I did tell Human resources I was in the Hospital after I had been in there for about 5 days. I called to make arrangements to return to work, thinking everything was covered. In the past 12 months I missed about 6 days due to reporting off (personal days) the company does not offer "sick days".


I'm a Northern Girl
I'm going to have to give this some thought. I've been second-guessing myself on this issue until I can't make sense of it any more. I'm going to run it by a colleague or two but with the holiday I can't do it till Tuesday.

There's no getting around the fact that your employer was on very firm ground up to the point at which you told them you were in the hospital. Your friend made a very bad mistake in not telling them first that you were sick, and second at least roughly when you would be returning. You made a very bad mistake in not confirming that they understood the situation. It was almost inevitable that when a non-employee called in for you on a weekend, that there would be a misunderstanding, and as I have been saying all along, calling in "until further notice" is simply not acceptable. It was your responsibility to confirm that your employer understood the situation, and you delegated that responsibility. Not a good idea. I do understand that you were very sick, but them's the facts nonetheless. :)

The situation becomes less clear at the point at which you told them of your illness. You DID qualify for FMLA, which would have protected your job, but there are only limited circumstances in which they are legally allowed to make FMLA retroactive. In my opinion, your employer also made a bad mistake in not at least giving you the opportunity to apply, even though they had valid reason to term you by that point. But what I've been second guessing myself over is whether your mistake overcomes their mistake, or vice versa.

I'll be back with more info tomorrow.


I'm a Northern Girl
Quick question - you said that on the fifth day of your hospitalization you did notify the employer. By what method did you do that? Did you call them? If so, who did you talk to? What did they say?


Junior Member
I did call them and spoke to a Woman in Human Resources. I told her that I expected to be discharged in a few days and wanted to let them know I would be returning to work. It was then that she told me that I had already been terminated. After explaining my position to them she said she would look into it and get back to me. When she did I was told that their position remained unchanged.


I'm a Northern Girl
Okay, I posted your situation on a board for HR people, wherein are some of the most knowledgeable HR people I know, I and know some very knowledgeable HR people. It actually generated a rather spirited discussion.

Without exception we agreed that you were poorly treated. Without exception we agreed that had we been the person in HR, we would have reinstated your employment upon receiving the phone call from you while you were in the hospital (although we also agreed that you would have received counselling on what does and does not constitute proper call in procedures, and possibly re-written the policy to make it more clear). Without exception we agreed that the employer violated the spirit of the law.

However, with only one exception (and the woman who disagreed is primarily a payroll, not an HR person) we also agreed that the employer technically stayed within the letter of the law, and that as much as we'd like to say otherwise, the probability is that no actual violation took place.

It was suggested that you might want to contact the US DOL in any case, for a couple of reasons;

a.) It's possible that there may be a detail you omitted when you were telling me your story, that affects the bottom line answer. It was a very, very close call, and it unquestionably falls in a grey area.
b.) If the employer is notified that you are pursuing the question legally, it's possible that they may decide it is simpler to reinstate you than to defend their position. More than one member of my HR group said that while they believed the decision to term you was technically legal, they would not want to be the one in court defending it.
c.) If you get the right investigator, it's not outside the realm of possibility that s/he might decide that a public policy violation has occurred, which would mean you WOULD get that wrongful term case after all. (I am by no means promising you this; it's a long shot possibility only.)

My sister is also an HR professional, specializing in benefits, and when I discussed the question with her last night, my brother in law suggested that you might want to take it public. See if a local newspaper or TV station is interested in the story. Can't hurt.

Good luck. By all means appeal the UI decision.


Junior Member
Thank you. I appreciate all the time and effort you and your colleagues put into helping me in this matter. I will certainly pursue your ideas and be sure to post a response with the outcome.

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