Can You Fire an Employee for Not Showing Up to Work?

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When an employee doesn't show up for work, the employer is often placed in a difficult position. While the employee may be reliable, a failure to show up jeopardizes the efficiency of the company. The employee may therefore wish to fire the employee. In most cases, this is perfectly legal. However, in some situations, this may run in violation of the law, particularly if the employee's employment is secured by a contract.

Firing For Absentee

An employee who is paid to perform a particular task is obligated to show up to perform this task during the hours that have been designated for him to perform the work. If he fails to do this, then the employer has cause to fire him. In legal situations where it is required for the employer to have cause for firing an employee, failure to show up to work will usually be sufficient.

At Will Employment

Many states are considered "at-will" employment states. In such states, an employer is allowed to fire employees at will; similarly, an employee is not obligated to hold a job, but can quit at will. In these states, an employee will not be required to provide any reason for firing any employee. However, there may be certain situations in which it is illegal to fire an employee if he has valid reasons for missing work.

Contractual Employment

An employer may not be allowed to fire an employee if the employee and the employer have signed a contract that guarantees the employee employment. For example, many individuals in labor unions can only be fired under very specific circumstances. So, if a contract states that an employee cannot be fired for missing only a certain number of days of work, then the employer may be legally liable if it fires the employee.

Read More: What Is a Contract Employee?


Most laws related to employment are made the state level. These states may have laws that forbid employers from firing people for missing work if the person is missing work for a specific reason. For example, if the person has been injured, the state may forbid the employer from firing the person. Similarly, federal law forbids certain types of employment discrimination. So, an employer may be forbidden from firing a female or minoity employee who misses work if it does not assess a similar penalty to other white, male workers who miss work a similar amount of work, if this suggests it is discriminating based on race or gender.