What can I do if I told my employer that I was suffering from mental depression and illness and they fired me?

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What can I do if I told my employer that I was suffering from mental depression and illness and they fired me?

I told my employer that I was suffering from severe depression and wouldnt be able to make it to work that day. He said to take time and get better and they wouldnt take me off payroll and my job would be there when I felt

better. Then 2 days later they fired me. Is that legal?

Asked on September 26, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Generally, if you took time off without having or using paid time off (e.g. sick days) to cover the absence, or being eligible for and using Family and Medical Leave Act leave (or leave under a similar state law), you could be terminated, even if you missed work due to a diagnosed or provable medical reason. The law does not let you miss work for medical causes without using PTO or FMLA, which is why FMLA was passed in the first place, to give some employees (those working for employers with more than 50 employees located within a 75-mile radius) to have time off for illness or recovery, since the law otherwise did not guaranty them that time. If you were terminated despite using PTO or FMLA, contact the state dept. of labor about filing a complaint.
Because the employer told you to take the time off, an argument can be made that it was authorized time off (and they can't terminate you for doing what they specifically authorized you to do) and/or that you could hold them to their promise under the theory of "promissory estoppel" (in brief: if you reasonably rely on another's promise to your detriment, you can in some circumstances enforce that promise). However, because this is not a labor law issue per se, but is based on a specific promise made to you, the dept. of labor will not likely be able to help you--you'd have to sue the employer. And it will be uphill struggle or case, since the norm in this nation is "employment at will," or the employer's right to terminate you whenever it wants to. It is hard to overcome that presumption that if you miss work without using PTO or FMLA, you can be terminated. Plus if your conversation with the employer was oral (e.g. by phone; i.e. not written), it may be tough to prove what he said or promised. So while you may wish to consult with an employment attorney about whether you can or should sue, be advised that while there is an argument in your favor, the odds are likely against you.


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