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  1. #1
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    Wrongful termination

    Just curious to see if anyone has any experience with this?

    I started a new job 3 weeks ago, and did not receive any formal company or HR orientation/training. No employee handbook. Nothing. They do exist, because I have seen them floating around the office. My supervisor just said "oh lots of people are on vacation, it's hectic, but you'll catch on quick." I was a little put off by that, but I did catch on quickly, I liked the atmosphere, and the people I was working with.

    Last week my supervisor spoke with me to check in. She explained that she was concerned that I had only made a certain amount of calls that day (I was in and out of the bathroom because of my IBS) I explained to her that performance goals were never explained to me, and I have the occasional stomach issue due to my IBS, that causes frequent bathroom trips. I told her I would get her a doctor's note, and she said that was fine, yet still never laid out what the performance expectations were.

    Today, I was called into the CEO's office. He proceeded to chastise me for composing a personal email at my desk. I explained to him I was on my lunch break, and instead of going into the break room, I like to remain at my desk, and catch up on emails, ect. He then proceeded to smugly announce that the company does not allow personal internet use whatsoever, and that I had been checking emails for over half an hour. (I'm entitled to an hour break!) I quickly apologized, and told him that in my past experience with other companies, personal internet usage was allowed on allotted breaks, I wasn't aware of the internet usage policies at this company, and that it wouldn't happen again.

    He promptly (and even more smugly) informed me that "won't be necessary since you are now unemployed". I have never been so humiliated or angry. He followed me to my desk, loudly announced that I needed to log off, and "saw" me out. As I was leaving I informed him that I had received *no* formal training on company policies, or the performance requirements/standards for my position. I would have never used my personal email, had I known it was not allowed. He told me he would speak with my supervisor, and I just said "best of luck" and left. Of course I was really thinking SCREW YOU.

    Is this even legal??? How can a company fire an employee for something they claim is "against policy" when they didn't even give a handbook or any proper training??? WTH?!?! I'm hoping I can collect unemployment, if not does anyone think I would have a case for wrongful termination? It really seems like they were just looking for a random excuse to fire me!

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. (ETA: I'm in Massachusetts )
    Last edited by Smiley0884; 07-10-2012 at 05:51 AM.

  2. #2
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    It sounds like you are an at-will employee, so basically they don't need a reason to fire you, sad to say. I hope you're able to find a new job soon.

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    So unfair treatment. Did you specifically ask your supervisor to give some official orientation/handbook to rightly adjust and start your job? But if agalisgv's right about your situation, I'm afraid there is no use considering a lawsuit.

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    Wow I am so mad for you just reading this. Do you have any friends that work in law? I would be compelled to follow up and assert that the company take accountability for their training practices. When you were hired, did they outline a period of time after which you would receive a review? Ie: give you a chance after feedback?! What did that supervisor explicitly state as the reason for your termination? One half hour's worth of personal emailing? That is crap. I'm sorry this happened!

    If it's any consolation, that sounds like the most toxic work environment with insufferably short tempered micro managers. So you're free!

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    Unfortunately, that's not illegal, but it sure as hell is bad business practice. If that's how they're going to treat you, it's better off for you not to work there. File for unemployment and fight for it if they try to deny you.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    It sounds like you are an at-will employee, so basically they don't need a reason to fire you, sad to say. I hope you're able to find a new job soon.
    What's an at-will employee? One who doesn't have a contract?

    In Canada you can no longer get EI (changed from Unemployment Insurance to Employment Insurance) if you get fired. Is it the same in the US?

    I'm very sorry this happened to you, Smiley. I had a friend who was fired for dubious reasons. Well, he did hit his supervisor, granted. But he was a minimum wage employee (warehousing) and had worked at the job for 10 years. His employers were not good, they pretty much coerced him putting in a ton of overtime hours and that put a ton of strain on him. They also hired illegals whenever they could. What happened was that one day, my friend just snapped. As his work was not unionized and he had no contract, there was nothing he could do.

    He did get medical EI for a few months - that is a common course to take for people who get fired or quit. The bigger problem for him was that he could not get a letter of reference.

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    Thanks for chiming in. Mass is an at-will employment state, which means employees can be fired at anytime, without being given a specific reason. I did however, find a list of "caveats" to at will employment:

    http://www.theemploymentlawyers.com/...0at%20will.htm

    I did ask for an employee handbook and was told I would get one "soon". Formal performance reviews are yearly, but supervisors do check in from time to time to touch base in regards to performance. However, a specific set of performance standards/goals/procedures were never outlined for me or put into writing. It's funny though the CEO never specifically said that I was being terminated because of the Internet usage, although it was certainly implied. He berated me for the internet usage, I explained myself, then his exact words were simply "You are now unemployed". So incredibly tacky.

    I'm going to the unemployment office on Wednesday to file a claim, so as long as I can get UI, I'll be ok. I just wanted to explore my options, and do any research about the legalities when it comes to employee termination. I'm just aghast at the lack or professionalism as to how the entire situation was handled. I've never seen someone literally act gleeful over firing an employee over such an arbitrary reason

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    That sucks and sorry to hear about how you were treated. However sounds like they are a crappy company to work for so maybe it is for the best.

    Our company doesn't allow personal email use but they put a block on all types of personal email because someone nearly cost our company a lot of money once. So it got banned for everyone. If the company doesn't allow it then they probably need to set up their systems so people can't access it in the first place.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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    I don't know if IBS is considered a disability but depending on how much time you spent not at your desk over the three weeks, I would guess that was the main culprit of the termination. IME companies are getting less tolerant of these types of things especially for newer employees.
    What would Jenny do?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    What's an at-will employee? One who doesn't have a contract?
    Basically. They can fire you for any reason that doesn't fall under discrimination, OR you are free to leave at any time without having to give notice, although IMO it is always better to give at least 2 weeks so they can find a replacement - I got the job I've been in for the past 10 years because I replaced someone who left w/o notice, so the company was scrambling to get her work done.

    Here's New York State Dept. of Labor's take on it:

    http://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotec...ds/faq.shtm#15

    Q: Can you fire an employee without due cause?

    A: Yes. New York State is an "employment-at-will," state. If there is no contract to restrict firing (like a collective bargaining agreement) an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason. This also protects the employee's right to resign. An employer may fire an employee for "no reason." An employer may also fire an employee for a reason that might seem arbitrary and unfair. The employee is equally free to quit at any time without needing to explain or defend that decision. .

    There are a few exceptions to "employment-at-will." The most significant of these are laws, enforced by the New York State Division of Human Rights, which prohibit discrimination based on: .
    •Race
    •Creed
    •National origin
    •Age
    •Handicap
    •Gender
    •Sexual orientation
    •Marital status

    For more information about how the New York State Division of Human Rights proceeds against unlawful forms of discrimination, go to: http://www.nysdhr.com/.

    Other exceptions to the doctrine of "employment-at-will" exist under § 201-d and § 215 of the New York State Labor Law: .
    •Section 201-d prohibits an employer from firing an employee for:
    •- political or recreational activities outside of work
    •- legal use of consumable products outside of work
    •- for membership in a union
    • Section 215 states that no employer shall penalize any employee for making a complaint to the employer, to the Commissioner of Labor, or to the Commissioner's representative, about any provision of the Labor Law (Violation of § 215 can bring a civil fine and separate civil action by the employee.)

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    I had a friend who was fired for dubious reasons. Well, he did hit his supervisor, granted..

    Okay, japanfan, there is something wrong with these two sentences.
    What would Jenny do?

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    Sorry Smiley0884. Hope you find a new position soon. I suspect the internet use was a convenient excuse; they were probably miffed about the learning curve and productivity issues.

    However, most companies do not want people using the office electronics and networks for personal stuff. It's not just "checking my email," but can extend into "wrote a complaint letter to General Mills" and even "finished writing my novel." If you take a new job, don't assume it's okay to do these things; ask your supervisor/manager.

    This is not a new trend - I worked for a company in Manhattan that let one of the most reliable IT guys go because he used the mainframe computer to organize his NY Times deliveries. (That was a big-bucks second job at the time.) It's considered "theft of services" because he was using their computer storage and processing.

    There have been cases where companies have actually laid claim to work like the novel or an invention because the employee used company time and/or resources. That's why so many people have switched to smartphones. That way, they can spend their lunch hour catching up on email or reading FSU without using company resources. Plus, it affords some privacy since companies have the right to audit and read anything that comes across their networks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    Okay, japanfan, there is something wrong with these two sentences.
    Seriously!
    Creating drama!

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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    (((Smiley0884)))
    ^This^ But there is a part of me that would love to see them squirm for what they did to you. The older, mature me would say move on and forget them. But boy oh boy would I love to see them pay for the way they treated you.

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    Generally people do not qualify for unemployment after only 3 weeks of work. Here's the eligibility requirements for MA:
    http://www.massresources.org/unemplo...igibility.html

    I think your best bet is to find another position quickly. Hope it works out.

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    While being an "at will" employee means that they can fire you for no reason, they cannot use something, such as email use, as a pretext for a firing based on a disability. I don't know MA law, so I don't know if IBS qualifies as a "disability"; if it does, you may have a shot at a lawsuit. I also don't know MA policy on unemployment; in CA, for example, firing does not automatically deprive you of a right to UI. I would consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law so you will at least know what your rights, if any, will be ... not only in terms of a lawsuit, but also in terms of UI.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    I'm very sorry this happened to you, Smiley. I had a friend who was fired for dubious reasons. Well, he did hit his supervisor, granted. But he was a minimum wage employee (warehousing) and had worked at the job for 10 years. His employers were not good, they pretty much coerced him putting in a ton of overtime hours and that put a ton of strain on him. They also hired illegals whenever they could. What happened was that one day, my friend just snapped. As his work was not unionized and he had no contract, there was nothing he could do.
    There is nothing dubious about firing someone who 'snaps' and hits his supervisor, and none of the excuses presented justify hitting someone.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    I had a friend who was fired for dubious reasons. Well, he did hit his supervisor, granted.
    just keep reading those two sentences over and over again.

    If the person who fired you said nothing specifically about time spent away from your desk, I don't think you can make a case for unfair firing due to IBS. Sounds like she mentioned call volume and you brought up being away from your desk, and she said it was fine. Doesn't mean there wasn't a pretext about it, but I think it would be really hard to prove.

    Sounds like this wasn't a very good company. COunt your blessings and good luck finding something new.
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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    I don't know if IBS is considered a disability but depending on how much time you spent not at your desk over the three weeks, I would guess that was the main culprit of the termination. IME companies are getting less tolerant of these types of things especially for newer employees.
    I only had issues with the IBS one day out of the three weeks I was employed. But it's possible that one time was enough to put them off.


    Generally people do not qualify for unemployment after only 3 weeks of work. Here's the eligibility requirements for MA:
    http://www.massresources.org/unemplo...igibility.html

    I think your best bet is to find another position quickly. Hope it works out.
    Thanks! It looks like they don't list any requirements for length of employment, just that you need to have earned $3500 during a recent one year period.


    I definitely learned my lesson about internet usage. The only reason I assumed it was ok, was because I saw other people doing it! But I won't assume it's ok in the future, and will stick to using my smartphone. Either way, if a company wants their policies followed, they might want to actually inform their employees what the policies are in the first place. If anything, the entire situation reflects poorly on HR and my supervisor. If I was the CEO, I would be less concerned with employees checking emails on lunch breaks, and more concerned as to why management staff has not properly trained employees....

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