Roy Hall claims, in his viral Facebook video, that after notifying The Home Depot that he would be having surgery, they fired him to avoid paying out short and long-term disability claims.
Hall says that after five years at the St. Petersburg, Florida, Home Depot, he had plenty of vacation and sick days saved up, as well as short-term and long-term disability plans, and he intended to have hip surgery. He had needed the surgery for a long time, but his doctor required him to lose weight first. Once he had done that, he informed his management and started the paperwork.
He had the paperwork filled out by his doctor, and on 22 June, 30 days before his scheduled surgery, they terminated him for "not writing up [an] associate]." Hall doesn't elaborate on what that exactly means, and he states clearly that he believes he was fired to prevent him from using his benefits.
Hall also states that he doesn't believe the corporate office knows anything about this, although I'm sure they do now. I did reach out to their public affairs office and will report back if they respond.
Two Sides to Every Story
If we assume Hall's side of the story is correct, Home Depot has violated the law. Hall, who I assume was a full-time employee based on his statements about having vacation time and disability policies, would be eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Once you have an employee declare their intent to use FMLA, or you have a reasonable belief that they may want to use it, you can't retaliate against someone. Every negative action you take against the person looks suspect.
This is why it's critical to never let bad behavior go unchecked--because if you ignore bad behavior and then the person gets sick, injured, or pregnant, and you decide to discipline, the order of that decision makes it look like FMLA retaliation. Which is illegal.
But, because we only have Hall's side of the story, we have to consider that Home Depot made a decision to terminate based on things unrelated to Hall's surgery. We don't know what happened regarding Hall's decision to not write up an associate. Was this a serious situation that others had been terminated for? Was Hall warned in the past about this behavior?
Sometimes, managers can warn and write up and warn employees some more about bad or ineffective behavior and the employee still doesn't have a clue.
Many managers can tell stories like this:
Manager: As per your performance improvement plan, if your drawer was short more than $5 you would be terminated. Your drawer was short $15 today, so this is your last day.
Employee: What??? You never told me that!
Manager: [slides piece of paper across desk] Is this your signature?
Manager: Can you please read the highlighted portion?
Employee: I, John Doe, understand that if my cash drawer is short by more than $5 I will be terminated.
Manager: Your drawer was short by $15 so you are fired.
Employee: But you didn't tell me!!!
This conversation can go on forever.
If what Hall says is true--and Home Depot terminated him for telling them he wanted to take legally protected leave--then they should apologize, reinstate him, and make sure his time off is protected.
If it's not true, they need to make it clear. hopefully, they will send me a statement.
UPDATE: I got a response from Matthew B. Harrigan, a company spokesman for The Home Depot. Harrigan say, "I can assure you we did not terminate him because of an upcoming surgery, nor would we ever terminate an associate for that reason." I asked if he would disclose the reason for the termination and he said he could not discuss that.
For people who think that is suspect, it's pretty standard for companies not to disclose reasons for termination.