Will you have to pay for terminating employees?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dear Lawyer Mark,

I’m in trouble and need some advice. My wife and I have been having some pretty bad financial problems, and they just got worse.

My wife just got real sick and her medical bills are huge. We ain’t got insurance, and there’s no way we can pay for them. Some of the doctors are even threatening to sue us because we haven’t paid.

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My question is, can we bankrupt the medical bills. We got lots of other bills too, but the doctor bills are the worst, so we just want to get rid of them.


Dear Poorer:

Yes, you can usually bankrupt medical bills. When you file for bankruptcy, you have to list all of your debts and assets.

There are generally two types of debts: secured and unsecured. A secured debt is one where you borrowed money to purchase an item, spent the money on that item, and agreed for the lender to use the item as collateral.

An unsecured debt is where someone has a general account for you or lends you money without getting collateral, such as a credit card or, as in your case, hospital bills.

When you declare bankruptcy, a secured creditor can either take the collateral back, have it sold, or make you pay for it.

Unsecured creditors, however, only get money if you have assets in excess of what the law allows you to keep. Because that depends upon very specific factual circumstances, I recommend you see an attorney before you get sued for the bills.

Dear Lawyer Mark,

I am a small business owner who has a terrible employee.

This person is basically incompetent at her job, and has a terrible attitude with me and the public.

My problem is, I’m afraid that if I fire her, I will have to pay unemployment. Actually, I’ve even overheard her say that she hopes she gets fired so that she can collect it.

If I have a good reason to fire her, will I have to pay?


Dear Employer:

An employer does not have to pay for unemployment compensation in every instance when an employee is fired.

If an employee is fired for cause, and the unemployment bureau finds that there was legitimate cause, the person fired will not get unemployment.

I recommend that prior to discharging the employee, you have adequate written documentation showing where you have reprimanded the employee and told them to take corrective actions.

The documentation will provide you with a good defense should the employee claim she was wrongfully discharged and try to collect unemployment or attempt to sue you.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: The imprudent man reflects on what he has said; the wise man, on what he is going to say.

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, OH 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.