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Wrongful termination

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Smiley0884, Jul 10, 2012.

  1. Smiley0884

    Smiley0884 Well-Known Member

    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. :mad: 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. :EVILLE:

    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! :blah:

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. (ETA: I'm in Massachusetts )
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  2. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. l'etoile

    l'etoile New Member

    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.
  4. jl22aries

    jl22aries Active Member

    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!
  5. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    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. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. Smiley0884

    Smiley0884 Well-Known Member

    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/Articles/Employment at will.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 :confused:
  8. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    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.
  9. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    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.
  10. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

    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:


  11. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg


    Okay, japanfan, there is something wrong with these two sentences.
  12. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

  13. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

  15. Cachoo

    Cachoo Well-Known Member

    ^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.
  16. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

  17. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    There is nothing dubious about firing someone who 'snaps' and hits his supervisor, and none of the excuses presented justify hitting someone.
  19. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    just keep reading those two sentences over and over again. :wideeyes:

    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.
  20. Smiley0884

    Smiley0884 Well-Known Member

    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.

    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....:rolleyes:
  21. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Past Prancer's Corridor

    As someone who has served as a union steward for a number of years, I can tell you that even if he had been represented by a union and was working under a contract, the chances of there being "nothing he could do" would be the same. About the only grounds I can think of where hitting his supervisor might merit less than dismissal would be if it had been in self-defense (i.e. the supervisor had attacked him first).
  22. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    the idea that someone would expect a letter of reference from a place where he's been sacked for hitting the boss is a little :lol:
  23. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    ((( Smiley0884 )))

    Given the limited recourse you have legally ... is there anything to be gained by "outing" this company and their practices?

    Sure, it will give you short-term satisfacation, but more importantly it might shame them into thinking twice about treating anyone else like this in the future.

    It's a path you want to be careful about taking, obviously -- even though you have no hope of a reference or another benefits from them, being seen as a bitter ex-employee might harm your future potential. But there are, of course, anonymous ways of doing it.

    Just a thought ...

    In the meantime, I hope you're able to get another, more satisfying position soon. And as a consolation, it sounds like a company that wouldn't be worth working for in the long-term anyway -- you're probably better off out of there.
  24. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    You didn't say what kind of job it was, but it sounds strange to me. Employers spend money on the hiring process and I'm not sure how they could judge your performance or learning curve in 3 weeks unless you were doing very limited repetitive tasks (such as a typing pool).

    As someone else said, maybe they were concerned that the IBS was a chronic illness that would require you to use health insurance and sick leave.

    I get the theft of services aspect of internet use, and employers are also concerned that using their email or IP address could be construed as their endorsement of your internet postings, but I don't see the harm of checking personal email. Afterall I use my personal internet and smart phone for work-related stuff.
  25. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    It is extremely petty to take to the public internet to 'out' a former employer for their bad behavior, especially when the employment lasted a mere 3 weeks. I highly discourage that tactic.
  26. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    ^ It's not necessarily just a petty action. If this incident is indicative of their business practices, an "outing" can a. warn other potential future employees, and b. possibly influence the company to think twice about doing this again.

    But it's entirely dependant on the circumstances, and obviously not something to be done without due consideration.

    Regardless, though, the length of employment is completely irrelevant. Wrongful termination is wrongful termination.
  27. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    If smiley was fired because the employer didn't accommodate what she needed to do to manage her IBS, then I would say it was discrimination. I agree with attyfan that smiley should see a lawyer.
  28. Smiley0884

    Smiley0884 Well-Known Member

    I'm not going to start a smear campaign, but if anyone happens to ask me about the company, I will give my honest opinion.

    The thing about my IBS...I take probiotics, so it's mostly under control. Maybe 4-5 times a year I'll have a bad spell, but I take an immodium, and I'm usually fine within an hour or so. I explained the situation to my supervisor, and she said she totally understood, as her daughter has been going through some stomach issues as well. However, the CEO was the one who fired me, so it's entirely possible my supervisor explained my situation to him, and he didn't want to deal with it, so he came up with the internet excuse.

    Aliceanne, my official title was "Marketing assistant" I basically set appointments on behalf of clients.
  29. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

    I'm sure it depends where you live, but most places I've worked at have a probation period when first hired, usually 1-6 months depending on the company, and you can be let go for no real reason during that time if they don't feel it's a good fit or whatever their reasons might be.

    I'm sorry that happened to you :( I had a similar experience once. I have a background in AR/AP/Payroll, but was having trouble finding work and took a job at a smallish company as a receptionist. About a month in everything was great and then their AP person quit and they offered me the position. I accepted and the girl that quit said she would spend her last week training me. Well she only came in for one day that week and then just disappeared. She was moving to a competitor and there was obviously bad vibes between her and management at that point. I spent the next two weeks trying to teach myself, but you could tell in her last few weeks she just stopped caring and everything was really haphazard and all over the place. I did my best with what I had, but my productivity wasn't high enough for them and by then they'd hired a new receptionist so I couldn't even go back to my original position. Since between the two positions I'd been there less than 3 months, I was just let go and that was that. There was nothing I could do.

    I hope you find something better soon :)
  30. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    Smiley - I am sorry about your job/termination, I am going to point out some things that might help in the future:
    1. Almost all US states are an at will state, meaning you can be let go for any reason. Typically the first 3-6 months will be the time period that people are let go for that reason. no given reason. Not that it doesn't happen at other times, but the probationary period is generally 3 -9 months in length and that is when people are most at risk.

    2. When at work on work premises, it is a big no-no to use the company's internet for anything except authorized company business. That means no personal email, no web searching, no using Pandora, no bringing in CDs of your favorite music to play through the hard drive etc. I would be very cautious about using my smartphone for anything on the company premises, even during my lunch breaks. The assumption could be made that if you are using it on your breaks, you are probably using at other times that you are on the clock. The general rule, is that the company owns my time, even my breaks while I am working. (think of it as going to lunch and having a drink - a big no-no even if you are on your own time).

    3. At time of hire, you are often asked to sign all sorts of forms. It maybe that you signed documents such as - I have received the employee handbook and understand it is my responsibility to abide by the policies outlined within, the IT policy and receiving your network log on, etc. I know that I was assigned to make sure all that paperwork was gathered on the first day of employment. I also know that I felt responsible enough to say "Do you know what you are signing?" but I would guess that many people assigned to gathering that information might just say "sign all these forms"

    4. Typically for your position, the CEO would not have been involved in the hiring or firing of an employee, unless a prized client complained about your level of service. Or said that they were unable to schedule an appointment because there was never anyone at the desk.

    Japanfan - I have no context for your friend being terminated for punching his supervisor and not getting a letter of recommendation, but he is fortunate that he was not arrested and charged with assault. I don't think that any union representative would touch that one with a 10 foot pole.

    Smiley, I am not unsympathetic towards your situation, but based upon my experiences of 2 lay-off/job restructures, it is a good idea to see what you might have contributed to the situation. I hope you find something soon. And something that you like more
    genevieve and (deleted member) like this.