Fired–Is This This Something I Can Fight?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being fired: I believe it’s discrimination because A) I corrected the late situation and there are many others there who are habitually late and B) if they fired everyone with poor attitude the place would be largely uninhabited.

I worked at my workplace for 18 years. Over the years, we’ve had roughly 7 general managers. Over these 18 years, I’ve tended to live my life about ten minutes late. This has never been an issue. The current GM has been there for a year. He also has never had an issue with this. I was always told I was a good employee and I got good evaluations.

Fast forward to Sept of last year. A doctor told me that my son had Ewing Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. From Sept of 2005 to March, I missed quite a bit of work due to going back and forth from my home in Missouri to Memphis, TN for my son to receive treatment at St. Jude’s. During all of this my boss told me “Don’t worry, your job is safe and secure.” He told me he had his whole church praying for me. He hugged me daily because he said he felt so sorry for me that he just had to hug me every time he saw me. I should add that during this ordeal with my son, my boyfriend had a massive stroke and my mother underwent an amputation of her right leg.

As I said, I missed a lot of work. My GM said, “take care of your family, your job is safe.” But then I started getting written up for little things that had never been an issue such as my tendency to be a little late for work. Which, by the way, I corrected. Then it was alleged that I was rude to a customer. I disagreed. Then we were all sent to this meeting to watch company videos. I mentioned that the videos were cheesy and that corporate wasn’t seeing things realistically. On April 4, 2006 the man who swore my job was safe fired me for having “a poor attitude.” To say I was stunned is an understatement. What can you tell me to help me to understand this? Is this worth pursuing legally? I believe it’s discrimination because A) I corrected the late situation and there are many others there who are habitually late and B) if they fired everyone with poor attitude the place would be largely uninhabited. Your thoughts?

Signed, Fired After 18 Years

DearĀ Fired After 18 Years:

Yes, this is worth checking with a labor attorney and also with your union if you have one. The facts are that the three accusations; lateness, rudeness and bad attitude in addition to your admitted many absences due to the incredible sickness in your family, if not approved by your boss; can be used to justify your firing. An attorney probably will tell you that in most states an employer can fire for good reason or no reason unless you have a union contract that calls for a process of discipline before firing.

Therefore, you should not have undue expectations when consulting attorneys. Most attorneys will permit a short consultation free. Consult soon.Also, I would request a meeting with your boss, Human Resources and, depending on what you learn from those meetings, with whoever is charged with employee firing at a level above your boss. For these meetings, prepare a brief response to each of the accusations and list the good evaluations you have received across your long employment. You are probably in your company there are others with a record of tardiness and some with a poor attitude.

However, charging that your firing was discrimination likely will not be ample reason to make a case. Do see an attorney. Do not say you are seeing an attorney if you do meet with superiors in your workplace. I think your best bet for re-instatement is a meeting with your boss and pledging a positive attitude to be of value to your company. Don’t become obsessed and depressed over all of this. I know with much sickness of those your care for piled so high it is not easy to have a positive attitude. You can become ill with depression if you see yourself as a victim and allow the story you paint in your question to be repeated over and over for family, friends and former co-workers.

Do not allow another week to go by before you job hunt. Check the ads. Don’t think you must have a job with pay equal to what you had after 18 years with your former workplace although that is what you want and I want for you. When applying and interviewing, do not recount the long story of why you were fired or badmouth your former employer. Present a positive attitude and list the skills and experience you could give to a new job. Do not give up. It often takes weeks and sometimes months to find new work. During this time, keep at it every day. Shower, dress well, and make the rounds. Or put your head to work on something that you might do to start a small business of your own; catering, sewing, cleaning, day care, home care for disabled, pet grooming, raising plants, etc. Does this make sense? See your self as a giver. Your life experiences can help others in volunteer ways. See your self as one who needs fulfillment outside of work; sing in a choir, volunteer in the library, hospital, or elsewhere, take art lessons, attend yoga. Possibly take training to learn new job skills. Do that that speaks to your mind, body, and heart. And please keep us posted. We are here to inspire you to not be without aspiration. Think of and for your self. Think of others. Think we; what I symbolize by my signature WEGO.

William Gorden