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Terminated for Whistle Blowing

Discussion in 'Termination: Firing & Resignation' started by BJPBR, Feb 28, 2019.

  1. BJPBR

    BJPBR Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    Oregon
    I was terminated for bringing up honesty issues about my boss to our HR department. I felt that I was being asked to report incorrect and misleading information to our shareholders. It became apparent that my manager caught wind of my visit to HR as his behavior changed and within a week I was terminated. I was given a silly reason for termination, which was that I sent an email that was inappropriate (I can describe the email, but basically it was in no way shape or form inappropriate).

    My experience so far has been attorneys are hesitant to take this case for wrongful termination. Can someone help explain why, and point me in the right direction?

    Thank you
     
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    If you were an "at will" employee defined as:

    Oregon is an at-will employment state, meaning that without a contract or statute to the contrary, an employer may fire an employee at any time and for any reason, excepting reasons that are discriminatory. Employees can also be discharged without notice.

    An employer is NOT required to provide you with a reason for your termination.

    Even if you believe the reason provided was "silly", that doesn't raise the firing to the level required to sustain a finding of "wrongful termination".

    Because Oregon is an "at-will" state, an employer may terminate an employee at any time for any reason or for no reason at all.

    Whatever reason given, Oregon state law mandates that the termination must be legally valid. Individuals fired for illegal reasons may sue for wrongful termination damages.

    Unlawful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for illegal or unauthorized reasons.

    Nothing you've revealed here indicates that you were terminated unlawfully.

    Furthermore, you state several attorneys have refused to take your case.

    That illustrates that you have no case upon which you could recover.

    Whistle blower statutes don't GENERALLY protect people who rat out private employers, UNLESS the details relate to government contracts and/or illicit use of government funds.

    Whistle blower statutes were enacted to protect government employees for ratting out corrupt government practices.

    I see nothing the courts can do for you, and I suggest you invest your time into rebuilding your life and enhancing your employment prospects.

    You great new job awaits, mate, you have only to find it.
     
  3. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Active Member

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    The reason is that private (i.e. nongovernment) employment is "at will". At common law this meant that both employer and employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason. This was in contrast to the indentured servant/peasant/serf relationship that preceded it.

    That common law rule has been modified somewhat by federal and state laws that place a few limits on what reasons an employer may use as a basis for terminating an employee. The law does not prohibit an employer from terminating an employee as retaliation for most things an employee does. The law does protect an employee who reports certain kinds of employer wrongdoing to a government agency (things that violate the law) or to upper level officials in the employer's organization, but the the details of the wrongdoing and what reporting is protected matter as the laws on each are different.

    As it applies to your situation, if your employer is publicly traded on a stock exchange or is otherwise a reporting company (meaning it must file reports with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)) then your reporting of things done by your employer that might deceive or mislead stockholders or debt holders of the company may be protected. But if your company is privately held (the shares are not traded on an exchange) nor otherwise a reporting company then no federal law protects you from retaliation for reporting on your the honesty problems of your boss. Nor, to my knowledge, does Oregon have a law that expressly protects against that kind of retaliation. That would leave you to try to find Oregon case law (court decisions) where the courts have held that sort of retaliation violates public policy in the state and thus supports a wrongful termination claim.

    My guess is that there is no Oregon case law that has clearly said what the employer did violates public policy, and hence the reluctance of the lawyers you consulted to take the case. They'd have to break new ground pursuing that, and that involves a significant risk that you'd lose.
     
  4. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    In my experience (which I suspect is substantially greater than yours), there are tons of attorneys who represent plaintiffs in wrongful termination cases. Since I don't know the specifics of your "experience so far," I can't intelligently comment on it, but the most common reason why attorneys don't take cases is because they lack merit or don't have much potential for recovery (or a combination of the two). The lack of potential for recovery is particularly where the terminated employee wants the attorney to take the case on contingency.
     
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