Is It Legal to Fire Someone for Absenteeism?

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Frustrated upset male employee receiving unfair dismissal noticeThe most fundamental part of all jobs is showing up to work every day. It is a basic responsibility that no one can dodge.

That said, life happens. Family members get sick, last-minute problems come up, and personal crises occur. Yet while everyone takes a day of sick leave from time to time, at some point it begins to become a problem.

So what legality is there to fire someone for absenteeism?

Firing someone for absenteeism should not be an employer’s first choice. There are plenty of other solutions employers should consider first to work with an employee that is consistently absent. Although there are times when an employer has enough legitimate basis to fire someone for absenteeism, rushing to fire an employee can lead to a wrongful discharge claim. If you think your employer fired you wrongfully, you should contact a qualified employment legal matters attorney.

What Is Absenteeism?

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines absenteeism as a chronic absence from work or school. Similarly, the Oxford Dictionary defines the word as the “practice of regularly staying away from work or school without good reason.”

Absenteeism is not simply calling in sick for one or two extra days a year. And it does not refer to situations when you have to take extra leave to care for a sick family member, deal with a difficult home situation, or struggle with mental or physical health issues. In reality, it refers to a situation when an employee frequently decides to stay away from work without a reasonable cause.

Why Do Employers Care About Absenteeism?

Absenteeism is a sizable problem for employers. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, absenteeism costs employers about $225.8 billion in lost productivity every year. That equates to almost $1,700 per employee. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that approximately 110,000 employees nationwide are absent from their workplaces on any given day of the year.

Absenteeism can result in:

  • Extra work being reassigned to the absent worker’s colleagues;
  • Some work not being completed on a timely basis; and
  • A decrease in the morale of the workforce.

It might not seem like a serious concern if one employee does not show up to work from time to time, but the effects of absenteeism often ripple out and reverberate throughout the entire workplace.

The truth is that employers have a legitimate obligation to combat absenteeism. Likewise, employees should do their best to regularly come to work. If they want to stay away from their jobs due to burnout, it may be time to make changes or begin searching for a better job.

What Is the Legality of Firing Someone for Absenteeism?

Most states embrace the concept of “at-will” employment. That means that employers can fire any employee at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. However, employees must still follow other laws, like anti-discrimination laws.

But when is firing someone for absenteeism appropriate? The difficult answer is that it depends. There are several factors to consider when evaluating whether an employer acted legally in firing someone for absenteeism, including:

  • Whether the employee was actually absent, and if they were absent, whether their absences were enough to constitute absenteeism;
  • The employer’s stated reasons for terminating the employee;
  • The employer’s actual reasons for terminating the employee;
  • Whether the employer treated the employee differently than other employees who had engaged in the same conduct; and
  • The reasons for the employee’s absences.

Although these factors are usually present in absenteeism cases, there are many other circumstances that can come into play. Even seemingly insignificant details can make a major difference in your case. The best way to determine whether your termination for absenteeism was legal is to contact a knowledgeable employment legal matters lawyer.

How Can A Lawyer Help Me If My Employer Fired Me For Absenteeism?

If your employer claims to have fired you over absenteeism, it’s easy to feel helpless. However, the truth is that you still have rights.

A lawyer can help you in several ways. First, they can explain the law to you. By drawing on their years of expertise in employment law, they can help you understand your options. Just because you were fired does not mean that you cannot appeal your termination. An attorney can also evaluate whether you have a case against your employer for wrongful discharge. Once you have consulted with them, they should be able to give you an idea as to what types of compensation you might be able to obtain.

Yet another advantage of a lawyer is that they can serve as your advocate. This means that a lawyer knows how to stand up for your rights in front of your employer and any third parties that might become involved in your case.

Finally, an attorney can help you collect essential information for your case. With wrongful discharge cases, a major ingredient in winning the case is gathering information that shows your employers’ actions were actually based on discriminatory or illegal motivations.

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Termination Attorney Today

If your employer fired you for supposedly engaging in absenteeism, you may feel like you are powerless and outmatched.

However, you are not alone.

At Smithey Law Group LLC, we understand that most employees take their job seriously. We also understand that employers often make major mistakes that turn their employees’ lives upside.

Know that we are standing by to help you.

Together, our lawyers have over 150 years of experience defending employees and fighting against greedy or unjust employers. Because of our experience, we know how to handle employment law litigation. Many of our attorneys are experts who frequently write articles on employment issues. In addition, our attorneys have won countless awards and appear regularly in both print and broadcast media.

If you think you might have a wrongful discharge case against your employer for firing you for absenteeism, give us a call. Let us work with you to discuss your legal options, work for your best interests, and help you take your next steps. Give us a call today at 410-919-2990 or contact us online.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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