An employer can fire, cut hours or lay off any employee who is not protected by a union, provided the employee is not discriminated against for membership in a legally protected class, such as race, religion, etc. The reason for laying off or firing does not have to be good. In fact, the employer does not really even need a reason. Start looking around for a new job.
I am a California attorney and cannot give legal advice in your state. My comments are information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT OFFER SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I mention your state’s laws, it only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state to learn your rights.
I'm sorry to hear about the death of your grandmother. I know this must be a difficult time for you and you don't need to add employment troubles into the mix.
I wish I had good news for you, but I don't. The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.
There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment which should help you understand employment rights: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/an-overview-of-at-will-employment-all-states. After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.
Now with a better understanding of your limited legal rights, consider a strategic solution instead. If you have not (yet) been fired, try hard to prevent that; convincing an employer to reverse an action already taken is difficult.
Consider tackling this directly, professionally and respectfully. Understand the company may have misunderstood events or perhaps felt there was something wrong with your work but never told you. Ask to speak with HR. Ask if you’ve done something indicating you are a poor worker or if the employer thinks you were responsible for something that happened. Maybe something was misinterpreted, though probably not. But if so, you can explain your side. More likely you will never know what is really going on. However, a mature conversation may change the way the employer treats you and may cause a change in the decision.
Whatever you do, don't challenge the employer’s authority. Indicate you want to continue your working relationship and value your job. Explain you care about doing a good job. Mention your good work record if you have one. Explain you would never intentionally do anything against the company's or your boss' interest.
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*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
If you have a discrimination theory about retaliatory discharge or hostile workplace conditions you'll need a lawyer. Religious belief, age, gender, race etc. all are discriminatory reasons for which you cannot be legally fired and upon which you might base a wrongful termination suit.
If you are an at-will employee, you can be fired for any reason or no reason, except unlawful discrimination. If you do not have an employment contract or union to represent you, your recourse is limited. Discrimination based on age, gender, race, religious beliefs etc.... may give rise to a different answer.
I need more information, but you might be protected under FMLA to care for a grandparent. Also if your employer truly used those exact words in response to your request to care for your dying grandma, it may rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, assuming it actually caused you sever emotional distress. I reccemond you contact an attorney for a free consultation.