I was terminated for missing a day of work because my sister had a stroke and needed to have a brain biopsy and could have died. I spoke with the manager the night before and he said it would be okay to miss the day. He also asked me to call and have another person cover that shift.
Workers' Compensation Lawyer
You can probably file for unemployment benefits, but it will be difficult to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination based upon the Family Medical Leave act which is both a federal and state law, and may also be a law in the County in which you live. Normally, under these laws, an employee must give advance notice in writing to the employer before taking the medical leave. Although you called and spoke to your manager the night before, there is a good possibility that the manager will tell a different version of the conversation, and will not support your version of the conversation. You are free to file a written complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) office which will normally require that you personally visit the EEOC office. Under State law, you can visit the Fla Commission on Human Rights or FCHR office. Under the law, these agencies will investigate by requesting a written report or interviews with your employer and the manager. If they believe that you've been discriminated against, they may file a lawsuit on your behalf, but in most cases, especially since they are overloaded with cases, they will send you a 90 day letter stating that they are closing their investigation, and you are free to file a lawsuit on your own or by hiring a lawyer to do so. Most lawyers will charge you a retainer of cash to investigate your claim, and under the law, they must wait until the investigation is through and you receive the letter for them to file on your behalf. Perhaps if a lawyer called them on the phone to have them reconsider? You may be able to find a lawyer willing to do so for a minimal fee of less than $100.00, but its' doubtful they will change their mind based only on a phone call. The employer will probably have other reasons for firing you besides the missed day of work. I hope this helps you, and feel free to email me if you have questions,
Employment / Labor Attorney
I agree. I would just add that FMLA doesn't provide leave for illness of siblings, except where you acted as the primary caregiver for the sibling (if you raised your sister or had custody of her as an example) or if she is in the military on active duty. From a non-legal standpoint, your former boss sounds like a heartless jerk. I wish that were illegal, but it's not. You should probably qualify for unemployment though, if that's a consolation.
I hope your sister is making a full recovery.