QUESTION: My husband had a heart attack and had to undergo emergency open-heart surgery. He will be unable to work for at least nine weeks – and probably more. When he told his employer he needed time off, they said they couldn’t afford to give him leave, and they aren’t required to provide leave (they only have 20 people on staff). Even though he’s never been in any trouble at work, he was ‘terminated’. My husband has accepted his employer’s action (which seems so unfair), but he’s very concerned that he will be ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was terminated, instead of laid off.

ANSWER: Sounds like you and your husband have had a lot of bad luck – but that bad luck probably doesn’t include being ineligible for unemployment benefits.

A person is ineligible for benefits if they are fired for misconduct, as defined by MCL 421.29. Misconduct includes activities like stealing from work, refusing a drug test, testing positive for a controlled substance, being fired for absence due to being in prison, being fired for assault and battery at work, being fired after being placed on disciplinary suspension at work, failing to show up at work without excuse or notice.

From what you say, your husband did not commit any misconduct, and he should be eligible. However, in order to collect unemployment benefits, your husband must be looking for work and be able to work. As long as your husband is recovering from his surgery and can’t work, he is disqualified. Once he gets a doctor’s OK – he can file a claim.

Although it may seem unfair, an employer with less than 50 employees in a 75-mile area is not required to give workers leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile
[email protected]