Car accident leaves Valley man without a job, looking for answers

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PHOENIX - A Valley father was in a serious car accident that was no fault of his own, so why did his company fire him for missing work?

Charles Polk was hospitalized and nearly lost his leg. But the biggest shock came when he tried to go back to work. His employer didn't wait for him to recover, instead they fired him.

Polk was in the car with his wife and children when they were hit head on by what appeared to be an out of control SUV.

Outside of a few bumps and bruises and a broken tooth his wife and children got out okay.

Charles was seriously hurt and doctors debated whether or not to amputate his leg.

"I thank god I'm living," he said. "Thank god I didn't die."

But the Army veteran was worried about more than just his health; he was worried about his job.

"The doctor said he wanted me to stay in the hospital for 6-8 weeks," Charles said. "I tried to get out as soon as I could to get back to work."

Several weeks before the accident, Charles was hired at United Recovery Systems, a call center in Phoenix.

Charles said he was assured that his job would be waiting when he got out of the hospital, but when he showed up at work they had fired him.

"They said don't bother, you've been terminated," Paciencia Polk, Charles' wife said. "It was a shock. It was a shock. We turned around and came back home."

3 On Your Side wanted to ask the manager of United Recovery Systems why they didn't hold Charles' position, but were told the manager was not available.

If you think it's shocking that someone would be fired while recovering in the hospital think again.

"In Arizona, by statute, employment is at will which means employees can be terminated with or without cause," Employment attorney Anne Tiffen said.

The only exception to this is discrimination.

Beyond that, Tiffen, also an ASU professor, said employees here in Arizona have no legal recourse.

It's a harsh reality that the Polk family is now trying to deal with.

Because Charles was terminated through no fault of his own, he does qualify for unemployment but he is choosing not to do that. Instead he is working hard to find another job.

Tiffen offered this advice for employees worried about the possibility of getting fired.

She said make yourself as valuable as possible, develop an amicable relationship with your managers and keep an open line of communication, know the company policies so you understand if they allow for any medical leave or personal time.