Can your employment be terminated for reasons of time off to deal with a loss of a loved one?

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Can your employment be terminated for reasons of time off to deal with a loss of a loved one?

I just lost my 19-year-old Brother in Law to cancer in the span of 7 months. I
tried to work as much as I could but was allowed time off now and then to
grieve and help deal with the funeral. but still working as much as I could.
however, I came into work today and was handed my termination papers. and this
is now a couple of weeks after my brother in laws death. they did not give me
any reason for the dismissal. also, nothing was written on paper for my time
off. so it just looks like I take a lot of time off.

I do also have very bad allergy attacks which take me out for the day. which I
had while at work, the day before I was dismissed.

Is this grounds for a suit against wrongful dismissal. or would there be a
better way to handle this?

Asked on August 9, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

First, please accept our sympathy for your loss.
Unfortunately, there is no right to time off for bereavement leave--the law does not guaranty or offer you time off for this. There is also no right to be less efficient at work, or to get late to work (or leave early from work) due to bereavement: that is it's not enough to "work as much as [you] could." You can only take time off for bereavement if you had and used paid time off (PTO) you'd earned for that purpose.
Also, there is no right to miss work for an allergy attack unless you used a sick day or other PTO for it.
And finally, unless you had a written employment contract to the contrary, all employment in this country is "employment at will": that is, as a general matter, your employer may fire you at any time it wants, for essentially any reason. There is no guaranty of a job or employment. 
What this all means is that if you were missing work as you evidently were, and possibly working less efficiently, then on top of that missed a day of work (or left early from work) due to allergies, you employer could have exercised its rights under employment at will to terminate you, feeling that this had gone on too long and you were not a valuable or worthwhile employee or were missing too much time. So based on what you write, it appears that this was legal.


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