I am a widowed mother of two girls (an 8 year old and a 14 month old), working at a hospital. I have been at this job for about 8 months.

My baby has been sick a few times, therefore I've had to stay home with her. I have even taken her to the hospital where I work, so they know about her sickness. Our physicians told me to keep the baby at home. I have no family to help me when these situations come up.

I have been written up by HR for being absent or being late to office when I had to take care of her. I have contacted my boss and communicated my situation. My boss loves my job performance, I am getting my hours in. I have even hired a sitter to stay with my girls so I can work in the evenings to make up time.

However, there is no empathy from HR, and I feel like the HR Director is trying to get me fired. Other employees don't get written up for similar reasons.

Are there any legal protections for widowed mothers with regards to employment, and workplace disciplinary procedures?

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    You may be able to discuss flexitime or working from home or renegotiate how many days or hours you work with your manager. But, as for your legal options, that's something you need to discuss with a lawyer. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 20:59
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    I agree and sympathize with you, but you will likely have to take legal pathways or get someone you work for that has power on your side to push the internal politics. If it's a healthcare facility legal ramifications usually will make them clean house rather than face legal charges, but you never know. Either way you need support.
    – mutt
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 21:00
  • Unfortunately there is not likely a good answer anyone can give as this look to be a legal matter that you need to contact a lawyer for. If it were me I would try to contact HR and see if there is something you can work out due to the unfortunate situation. If they are unwilling to work with you then your only real option is to contact a lawyer for advice. GL and all the best! Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 21:03
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    No, there is no protection against discrimination against widows. There are however protections for family members of sick people (such as your child) in the form of FMLA. Look up the rules regarding that. You don't even have to invoke FMLA to be protected by it. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 13:10
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    Not an exact duplicate, but may be helpful. workplace.stackexchange.com/q/65867/3192
    – Masked Man
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


First and foremost HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

The unfortunate truth is that you are, in fact, violating policy by being late and being absent and there is no legal protection against that.

To assume that an employer will be compassionate is to set yourself up for failure.

Your employer does not care that you are going through hell and they are not legally obligated to make life easier for you. The fact that they extend a courtesy to others does not mean that you are being discriminated against, it only means that you are not being extended a courtesy. Part of that is likely the fact that you are a new employee. Someone who has been there for 20 years has a history with people and will get leeway that you won't. That isn't discrimination, that is simply life.

Now, to address your core concern. Since you have no family, go to friends, go to a church, temple, charity, ANYTHING you can find to help you with childcare. You need to find a way to make it so that someone other than you can handle emergencies during work hours.

Get the process going with church, temple, mosque, friends, groups that can help you and then talk to HR about how you are working to make your home life more stable and ask for leniency on that point.

Ultimately, it is up to you to make sure that family issues do not affect your job. It is an unkind fact, but a fact nonetheless. You owe it to your children to take any and every step you can to preserve your employment. Don't hope that the employer will care, because they don't.

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    This is essentially I would give only phrase it not that they don't care (because they actually might) but the way I've told people I've had to put on notice because of situations like this is that "it's not their problem". They may genuinely feel for her and want to help her, but that's not their problem. That she has problems is unfortunate but doesn't change the fact that the organization still has work that needs to be done and done in a certain way within certain policies. +1
    – Chris E
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 21:24
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    I think being late and absent. Yes the reason is legitimate, but after so many there is usually a policy for escalation. Verbal warning -> Written Up -> Disciplinary Action. That's pretty standard, regardless of the validity of it.
    – Nelson
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 5:56
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    Your employer does not care that you are going through hell - that is probably not true. They are not willing to tolerate this activity, but that doesn't mean that they do not care at all about what she is going through. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:25
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I think the meaning of Richard's comment about the employer not caring is the employer as an entity; you're referring to other individual employees within the employer. Until the actual business makes caring about your well-being/whatever/you as an individual part of its mission statement as a company, then no, the company does not really care about you, even if some other employees do.
    – code_dredd
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 16:55
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    @ray - I think you are wrong on that. Just because it is unable or unwilling to change policies to accommodate you does not mean it doesn't care about you. You are part of the company, and your success is its success. most companies are not uncaring behemoths. Even if it feels like they are sometimes. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 17:04

About the only protection you have in this regard is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Which is better than nothing but it is not going to protect you in the situations described in the question.

Your employer has sent you strong messages that it is not going to tolerate your attendance issues.

However, there is no empathy from HR, and I feel like the HR Director is trying to get me fired.

If they were trying to get you fired, by the descriptions you provided above they have plenty of reason to terminate your employment if that was their desire. They are providing you these warnings to let you know that the behavior can not continue if you want to keep your job. That says to me they do not want to fire you.

But they have no obligation to make allowances for your tardiness and absenteeism. And they have let you know that they will not be making allowances for your situation. So its up to you to change the behavior or face losing your job.

Other employees don't get written up for similar reasons.

You do not actually know this. Most disciplinary actions taken against employees are done privately and confidentially. It is also possible that the write-ups are as far as the company is likely to ever go. I have worked for a company that liked to issue write-ups for people when they were late or absent, but never actually fired anyone for that. But those people also did not get promotions, or advance either. I would never count on this for the security of my family, but it is a real possibility.

You need to change how you handle your responsibilities to your family and your employer if you want to improve on this issue. The problem is your employer needs to be able to plan for the appropriate coverage. Your showing up late or missing work could cause them to fail to meet coverage requirements.

Plan Ahead:
Chances are you know when your child is sick 8 or more hours before work. You need to be planning on how you are going to be able to deal with this illness and your work. You need to find out what are the options you have? Can you swap shifts with someone? Can you get someone to take care of your child while you work?

You may have to make tough choices about how you care for your child or find a job that is willing to work with you on a more flexible basis. Billions of people have children and manage their lives. Their situation is different than yours, but its because they have organized their life differently. You need to make changes unless you are willing to risk losing your job.


You work in a situation where apparently your tardiness equates to a whole lot of disruption. There is FMLA, if you are in the United States, but I've always had the idea that FMLA is moreso designed for longer-term concerns and not for last-minute lapses.

As a single parent, I can relate the frustration you feel when you're in a crunch. But when I'm in a similar crunch, that doesn't obligate everyone else at my job to stop their lives on my behalf. In my current job, I'm glad that I haven't had to raise any serious issue regarding care for my child, and I'm sure they'd allow me to work from home -- for a short period -- while stuff gets resolved. But this is not a privilege I want to take for granted.

That said - if your employer can't accommodate you, and there are no work-from-home opportunities, then maybe you'd be best with some other employment that's more suited to your reality. You can't change your employer's policy, and you can't stop your child from being sick, so you must change what you can -- yourself. Best of luck.

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