Can an at-will employer fire an employee for missing work due to an acute, non-ongoing, medical issue?
A friend of mine was let go when she missed a week of work for a respeiratory issue after she cleaned her carpets. It's a treatable condition requiring oxygen and steriods for a couple of weeks. She will recover and be able to return to work. She is a contract worker in Washington State. Where does she stand in regard to her termination?
I am a lawyer in CT and practice in this area of the law. Unfortunately, the employer can fire the at will employee for good bad or no reason at all. The employer's decision to terminate the employee is not a good reason, but it does not violate public policy and it is not discrimination. I suggest that she return to work as soon as possible and speak with the employer to assure him that she will be ok and her work will not be affected on a going forward basis.
I know that this seems harsh but it is probably legal.
Most employment relationships are what is known as "at will". This means that basically the employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit. In turn, you can work for an employer, or not, your choice.
The only exceptions to the above would be if there is a stated company policy covering this, or there is a union/employment agreement that governs, or this situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination.