The reason this is important is the FMLA prohibits employers from retaliating against individuals for taking FMLA leave typically. So it is typically best to request FMLA leave when you are eligible since the employer cannot legally count those absences against you. If you did not take FMLA leave when you had your hysterectomy, then the employer can normally use those absences against you in refusing a raise and any claim of discrimination based on age could be thwarted because the employer could justify their actions by pointing to the absences.
Since the employer raised the issue of your absences, this does not appear to involve age discrimination and discriminating against you because you do not have a degree is not protected under state or federal law, so the employer can legally use that against you in refusing a raise.
Because of these facts working against you, it is likely any claim of discrimination against the employer would fail. I'm sorry.
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