Should you fire someone for not coming to work, when the reason they can’t come to work is because they are sick and in the hospital? When I was doing some research for my recent Wanna Get Fired? Do These 10 Things post I came across the story of a young Texan woman, Chelle, who was fired from her most recent job roughly five months ago. This is what happened in her words:
I applied for a position in August, and was called for an interview the very next day. The next week I was called back for a second interview to meet the team, ask any questions I wanted, and I guess to see if they thought I would be a good fit. I felt good about it, that is until the company started sending me all of these forms over e-mail saying, “Oh we forgot to have you sign this, or authorize this.” So I signed everything and faxed it back to them. After that was done, I didn’t hear from them for two months. Then one day I get an e-mail from the supervisor asking if I still wanted the job. I said yes, and she called and officially offered it to me. Two weeks later I started the job. And two weeks after that I fell ill, seriously ill, hospital ill. My mother had to call my new boss and say that I couldn’t come in, I was sick, and she didn’t know when I would be able to come back. A week later I was still in the hospital, and my mother went to my apartment to make sure everything was OK. She found a package at my door and brought it to me. It was a certified letter from the company stating that someone “claiming” to be my mother called and said I would be out indefinitely, and they wanted me to call them by a certain date to confirm this. Well, the day my mother went to my apartment was three days after that certain date. So she called the company’s HR department to let them know why I hadn’t called, and they refused to speak with her. A few days later, back at my apartment, there was another certified letter announcing my termination for not calling by that certain date. I was so angry. Up to that point, I had never been fired or even asked to resign. Why didn’t they call me? They had my cell phone number. I know because they called my cell phone to ask me for an interview and to offer me a job. Why on earth did they think a certified letter would be sufficient? The person “claiming” to be my mother told them I was sick and had been hospitalized. Wouldn’t it logically follow that a hospitalization might prevent me from receiving that letter? I’m still angry about it. I understand that an indefinitely absent employee is not a good thing, but come on. I’d rather have been offered the option to quit.
Chelle goes on to say her full recovery took several more months, and she is now in the early stages of a new job search. One of her struggles is some fairly significant gaps in employment. She was unemployed for four months, then got hired, only to quit that job before she had another one because she clashed with her boss. Then she got the job that she got fired from when she got sick. She picks up the story again.
How do I make my resume shine enough for employers to overlook that? I don’t want them to think I was fired from my previous job, but I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses. I’m college educated. I should be able to do this. I send my resume out like crazy, but I can’t even get a call back. Being jobless makes me feel useless. I’m in my late 20s, and my parents are having to support me right now. It’s like the definition of loser.
So let’s break this down a bit. Are there any Staffing Talk readers who think Chelle should have been fired because of her inability come to work, regardless of the circumstances? Why? Or why not?
Let’s also get past the obvious. She was asked why she didn’t get an employment lawyer to go after the company for wrongful termination. Her reply, in so many words, was that she felt she didn’t have the emotional energy for a fight, that she instead wanted to focus on her recovery and finding a job, and not doing battle over what had already happened.
Thought I can’t say I have ever been in this circumstance, I do know what it’s like to not want to wallow in the negativity of the past, and instead just move on.
One woman commented on Chelle’s story, saying she was also from Texas, and finds it less than friendly in terms of worker rights.
You have my 100% sympathy in regard to your job loss. I live in Texas, also. This is the 3rd state I’ve lived & worked in, and it is the most disappointing of the three with regard to jobs & employee rights.
Even though I am ending here, this post is not meant to pick on Texas. After all, as Rick Perry and others have reminded us, the state leads the nation in recent job creation.
But if anyone wants to take on the Lone Star State, or support it, have at it.
As for Chelle, speak up – or out – for her as well, since she was apparently unable to on her own behalf. I mean, why didn’t she use the cell phone she said she had in the hospital and have a conversation with her employer herself? Why did she let it go on as long as it did?
Oh well, your turn.