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Objective advice...?

Discussion in 'Termination: Firing & Resignation' started by Nervous Nelly, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The work I do is very important and highly regulated. I witnessed a coworker do something illegal at work, and I questioned this person about their actions and the potential legal implications. This particular act is not only against the laws of the state I live in; it is against the various regulations required by my employer to continue to do business. I was warned by this person to keep the matter quiet. I feared for my job, so I kept my mouth shut. Over the next few months this person repeatedly tried to get me fired at work with various allegations about my work performance. The attempts didn’t work. (A few months before, I brought up a situation when this person started yelling at me. Nothing was said about the way this person spoke to me, but the director told me that I was doing a great job.) This person then announced that they were leaving to take another position. I am not naïve. I thought my job might be in jeopardy because this person had been with the company considerably longer than me. I figured this was a last ditch attempt to tell the director in my company that it was either “them or me.” Sure enough, I was told my position was being terminated. I wasn’t provided with any reason, but I have since been told it wasn't for cause. This coworker is still working at the company and was promoted. The former boss has since been demoted.

    My job is extremely specialized, and there aren’t any other options for employment in my state. I’ve been applying, interviewing and traveling out of state for job opportunities. Naturally this is quite expensive.

    My desire is to go away peacefully, but I have a price. It will take me a considerable amount of time to find comparable employment, and I want to be adequately compensated since I was not fired for cause.

    I was offered 2 separate agreements if I released any and all future claims against my employer. Considering most states (including mine) are employment at-will, I didn’t think I had any options, but I believe I have a wrongful termination case.

    How hard would you fight for your livelihood and for what is right? Obviously if this information goes public, I could jeopardize my chances of getting hired in my field in the future. If I go away now, I’m looking at significantly less money than what I need to find similar employment in the field. Without money, how will I find comparable employment? How will I support myself? Unemployment is a small fraction of what I made and is not enough to pay my bills. Would you have the courage to play the legal game to see if they’re trying to call my bluff? Can anyone help me see this objectively?
     
  2. ElleMD

    ElleMD Well-Known Member

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    So, some time ago (at least several months but you do not say when) you witnessed an employee do something illegal and did not report it. This person then treated you poorly, but you still never reported anything about the illegal conduct. At some point your position was eliminated and you were offered a fairly standard separation agreement. On what are you basing your "wrongful termination"? Did you ever report the wrongdoing? It is not clear. How much time had passed between the act and when you reported it? How long after that were you terminated? It sounds like someone had to go and you reported it in the hopes it would not be you. What was the reason given for your termination? Did you issue an ultimatum?
     
  3. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I was terminated less than 6 months after the questionable legal activity and 3 weeks after the coworker announced their resignation.

    Yes, I was treated very poorly. I never mentioned the legal issue because, from the moment it happened, I was in fear of losing my job.

    My wrongful termination is based on the cat's paw liability theory. To me, it is obvious that my coworker got me fired. They manipulated my employer to accomplish their illicit purpose. Even though my employer wasn't aware of the legal issue, they can still be held accountable based on the cat's paw theory.

    I was not given a reason for my termination. No, I never issued an ultimatum.
     
  4. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    For there to be wrongful termination, there must be a specific law that the employer violated by terming you. What law do you believe the employer violated when you were termed?
     
  5. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    1. Retaliatory termination based on the fact that my public speech regarding the illegal activity was a substantial and/or motivating factor of my termination carried forth via the cat's paw liability theory.

    2. Whistleblower claim based on the discrimination for opposing the illegal action conducted by my coworker.
     
  6. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    What public speech? What whistleblowing? According to what you've posted, you never reported the illegal activity.
     
  7. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Public speech, ie protected by the first amendment right. My public speech to my coworker about their illegal activity. No, my employer wasn't aware of it, but they can be held liable via the cat's paw theory. My coworker wanted me fired and used my employer as a means to get what they wanted.

    The whistleblower claim is based upon the fact that you cannot discriminate against someone who opposes any unlawful activity.
     
  8. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    The First Amendment limits the government's ability to restrict your speech about the government. It does not have anything to do with your employer.

    Your co-worker isn't the one who fired you. You did not oppose the illegal activity to the ones who did fire you. There is no discrimination there.

    You asked for objective advice. The objective opinion of two experienced HR professionals is that there is no wrongful termination here.
     
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  9. KatDini

    KatDini Well-Known Member

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    The First Amendment restrains Congress/the Feds from making laws barring political speech.
    "The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government."
    First Amendment

    So, you've got nothing there that would be a First Amendment right to squat.
     
  10. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The coworker is the one who got me fired. Are either of you aware of the cat's paw liability theory?

    I'm saying that my freedom of speech against my coworker's illegal activity was my coworker's motivating factor to get me terminated, and my employer is liable based on the vicarious liability of the cat's paw theory.
     
  11. KatDini

    KatDini Well-Known Member

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    'As finally crafted by the Scalia opinion, the “cat’s law” (sic) theory of liability falls upon the employer only if these steps play out in a sequence: (1) a supervisor of the worker takes a step (writing up a negative report, for example) that is done for a biased reason, (2) that supervisor intends to get the worker fired, demoted or otherwise penalized, and (3) the supervisor’s step is found to be the “proximate” cause of the ultimate decision — even if the executive or supervisor who actually carries out the firing or other penalty is someone else, and that person was not at all biased.

    The opinion pointed out in a footnote, however, that the Court was only dealing with a situation where the biased intent was harbored by a supervisor. “We express no view as to whether the employer would be liable if a co-worker, rather than a supervisor, committed a discriminatory act that influenced the ultimate employment decision.”'
    Opinion recap: "Cat's paw" theory upheld

    Unless your coworker was your supervisor, you've got nothing. Move on with your life.
     
  12. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    Okay, you go hire yourself a lawyer since you're not interested in anything we have to say.
     
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  13. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Geez... I was merely asking for opinions. I never said I wasn't interested in what you had to say. My apologies for thinking that this was a discussion.
     
  14. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    Objective advice appears to translate to, Tell me what I want to hear.

    My child, I've forgotten more employment law that you will ever know. But no matter what I tell you, since I'm not telling you want you want to hear, you tell me that I'm wrong based on your own, incorrect, interpretations of laws you do not understand. I am not interested in wasting any more time trying to explain to you why you are wrong. You can pay someone to do that. I'm done here.
     
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  15. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I'm not sure how you perceived the thread that way. You asked me questions, and I gave my opinion.

    I was going to ask additional questions, but since you have chosen to be disrespectful and cop an attitude, I'm not interested in what you have to say about the matter. Clearly you're not interested in the conversation.
     
  16. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You believed you had a wrongful termination case. You were "objectively" advised that you didn't. There is no more conversation here that you can wring out of this topic.
     
  17. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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  18. Betty3

    Betty3 Super Moderator

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    Based on what you posted, I don't see a wrongful termination either. If you believe you do or believe you might have a wrongful termination, you are free to discuss the situation with an employment lawyer.
     
  19. ElleMD

    ElleMD Well-Known Member

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    You very much mistaken about "cat's paw" liability. Further, it makes no sense for this employee to try and get you fired if they are resigning, nor when you could have very easily have reported what they did. Why didn't you? Had you been terminated it *might* have actually been a wrongful termination for which you have recourse. You questioned a coworker, told no one else, and 6 months later were let go after the coworker announced their resignation. It would have been near impossible to have a viable retaliatory claim 6 months later in any case. It is absolutely impossible when the employer and decision makers had zero knowledge of any wrong doing by your coworker AND you never reported the illegal conduct. In fact, your silence would be a very good reason to terminate you. Any employee who witnesses illegal conduct and turns a blind eye is complicit in that conduct and places the employer in legal jeopardy almost as much as the original offender.
     
  20. Nervous Nelly

    Nervous Nelly Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Can you elaborate on how I am mistaken on the cat's paw liability?

    I don't see why it doesn't make sense for my coworker to try to get me fired if their resignation was an effort of manipulation. They had no intentions of actually leaving the company. Why? They had it too good there... come and go as they please, never working 40 hours a week (salary employee). This coworker was a lead in my company and had made many attempts at getting me terminated ever since the legal issue took place. I believe they announced their resignation in hopes of leverage and a last ditch effort to get what they wanted. When I asked, this person told me that they were negotiating their position the very day I was terminated! What is it they wanted? For starters, me fired. Secondly, a manager role. They effectively became a manager the day I was terminated. So, in my opinion, the cat's paw theory, seems justified. Can you explain why I lost my job if it weren't at the hands of this person? It doesn't make sense to me. At the very least, it's an odd set of coincidences.

    I do agree. I should not have been a coward, and I should have stood up to this person the moment I witnessed the illegal activity. I believe that my wrongful termination case would be more cut and dry.
     

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