Is it legal to fire you because you sought out legal counsel to help resolve a dispute?

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Is it legal to fire you because you sought out legal counsel to help resolve a dispute?

I missed 5 days at work over the last few months due to surgery at the VA hospital. I was yelled at by my boss when I tried to defend myself. I went to my family attorney and asked if I should try and talk to boss face to face or write a letter. My boss then said that I threatened him with a lawyer and he fired me on the spot.

Asked on November 10, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether you missed the work due to the use of sick leave or other PTO you earned, or due being eligible for and having properly used FMLA leave. If you used PTO or FMLA leave, then your employer cannot retaliate against you for standing up for your rights to it; if you were fired for standing up about PTO you had earned and used, you may be able to sue for wrongful termination; if you were fired for standing up about the proper use of FMLA leave, contact the department of labor about filling a complaint for illegal retaliation.
But if were not eligible for or did not use PTO or FMLA, you had no right to miss work, even for surgery; that means that you were not defending or standing up for your legal rights; and in that case, you could be terminated legally for standing up to your boss. There is no right to stand up to your employer except in regards to earned benefits (like PTO) or legally protected rights (like FMLA).


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