What can I do if I was fired for trying to reschedule a drug testing after workplace injury?

I went to the hospital after getting a metal shaving in my eye. The next day I received a voicemail saying that I needed to be in for a drug screening. I called the HR manager and explained that I couldn’t make it because of it being so short notice and not having a sitter available for my 8 year old child. I agreed to go in on Monday. Over the weekend my child came down with the flu and stayed home from school on Monday. Due to caring for her during the day, I had very little sleep. I overslept. I emailed the HR lady explaining that I overslept, I sincerely apologized, and asked if I could reschedule. I received a phone call 20 minutes later from the plant manager to tell me that I had been terminated. I understand that my actions seem evasive. If I were reading this, I would come to that conclusion as well. However, I did not do these things to be evasive, I have absolutely nothing to hide; I do not drink alcohol or do any drugs. My termination comes less than 2 weeks after making a serious complaint to upper management about workplace violence and a hostile working environment. I know that the 2 are connected. My supervisor had told me that if I took this complaint to upper management that I would lose my job. In conclusion, I learned the hard way that missing a drug test could cost me my job. I also learned that if you make a complaint, cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Is there any legal action that I can take?

Asked on May 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Generally, unless you had a written employment contract protecting your job or preventing your termination for this reason, you were an employee at will and could be terminated at any time for any reason--even no reason other than that a manager wants to fire you. And you could be terminated for doing what appears to be avoiding a drug test, since not only could they fire you without cause, but avoiding a drug test provides cause--it supports a suspicion that you were using and trying to avoid being caught.
Generally, complaints about hostile work environments are not protected, either: employees don't have a general or untrammeled right to file complaints, unless there is a contract (e.g. union agreement) giving them this right. But there are exceptions: the law prohibits harassment, hostility, discrimination, etc. due to race, sex, national origin, religion, age over 40, or disability (or also in your state, marital status and sexual orientation, too); it also prohibits retaliating against you for raising a complaint about one of these types of discrimination or harassment. IF you were reporting hostility, etc. directed against you due to one of these bases, and believe that you were retaliated against for doing so, you *may* have a legal claim for wrongful termination--though the fact that you twice missed the drug test will hurt you, since on its face, that provides a non-retaliatory reason for your termination. However, it would still be worth contacting your state's Human Rights Commission or the federal EEOC if you were suffering harassment or hostility due to one of the characteristics described above, becasue the agency could find illegal retaliation for having made a protected complaint.


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