Can an employerfire or threaten to fire an employee for taking time off to attend to a gravely ill parent?

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Can an employerfire or threaten to fire an employee for taking time off to attend to a gravely ill parent?

I take minimal time off to attend to a gravely ill parent. I have been here for 23 years, rarely take a sick day, come in early, stay late, and often come in or visit customers on weekends to take care of customers/clients needs. I have offered to use vacation time, and even take the days no pay, and the co president has said, “That is what personal time is for”. The other co-president’s son-in-law who works her and is married to the co-president was out for 8 weeks after his wife (co-president’s daughter) had an accident with nothing (and paid in full). I work in an office of 10 employees.

Asked on May 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, it is probably is the case that the employer can terminate or threaten to terminate you for this. To begin with, there is no general requirement that a company provide sick, personal, or vacation days at all, and if the company chooses to do so, they may put restrictions on their use.

Second, unless you and your employer both qualify under one of the laws, like the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees time for medical leave (including to take care of others), there is no legal requirement that a company allow an employee to take time off for his or her medical needs or those of a family member. A 10-person office, however, would be small enough to not generally be covered by those laws; for example, it is too small for FMLA to apply.

There is no requirement that a company treat all employees equally or fairly, so long as the employer does not discriminate on the basis of a protected category, such as race, religion, age over 40, sex, or disability.


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