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Termination without a good cause

Discussion in 'Termination: Firing & Resignation' started by banana_hammock, Oct 9, 2020.

  1. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hi all,

    Forgive me for the rather lengthy post but I feel this is a matter worth discussing.. So I worked for a tech company as a associate and I was recently terminated without notice recently on 10/5/2020. When I asked why, HR said: "that the decision to terminate your employment contract is based on your prolonged bench duration. We must let you know that the Company’s decision on the matter is in-line with standard policy guidelines and applicable criteria." Which basically means I was on bench for too long.

    But I have a feeling it was actually because one of the managers just didn't like me for whatever reason. During the call he had a pretty weak case to justify terminating me, but HR still seemed to side with him.

    First HR suddenly arranged a mandatory meeting with me (I had no idea what is was about). That's when they suddenly started saying that I was being terminated as if I knew this was going to happen. During the conversation, the manager was trying to justify his complaints to HR.

    His first reason was that I had not contacted him to help me find a project. At which I said that I had no idea I was even supposed to specifically contact him. He never introduced himself to me and I was never told by anyone I was supposed to go to him for projects. In fact, I was already in contact with other managers about potential projects to place me on. So I felt that there wasn't even any need to specifically contact him. Had it been made clear that I was supposed to reach out to him, I definitely would have done so.

    Then he tried to say that I had not attended certain group meeting which he apparently emailed me about. I could not find the emails at all in my inbox, so when I asked him about it, he had not clear answer. He could not even prove that they were mandatory to attend meetings.

    Furthermore, his last point was that I had apparently rejected a project offer from another manager. When in fact I did not outright 'reject' the offer, but simply stated that I was not available at the time because I was already in contact with other managers prospecting me for different projects which I had more interest in and aligns more with my experience. Basically they were trying to make me do work that I was not trained for as a software developer.

    So all in all I feel like his case is pretty weak but HR was still very adamant about terminating me. When I asked HR to send me the documents outlining the company bench policy to gain some clarity, the lady kept changing the subject.. When I sent her an email asking for the documents she said that the reason for my terminating was already explained in the call.. I replied that there was still some ambiguity on my half and asked her again to please send the documents (which should not be a problem at all) but she never replied to the email..

    This leads me to feel a little suspicious that they are maybe hiding something. Possibly some form of discrimination going on here? Or maybe that they know they don't have a good case for terminating me and don't want me to sue? My question is should I have this looked in to further by an attorney? Would it be worth my time to try sueing?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I have been wrongly terminated and I wanted to ask a knowledgeable community before paying money for an attorney. Thanks and regards.
     
  2. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    That is YOUR burden to prove.
    Based upon your lengthy post, I see no hint of discrimination.

    Employers don't have to possess a reason to terminate any employee.

    If you were working as an "at will" employee, you were free to QUIT anytime, and your employer could fire you at anytime without a reason.

    Heck, your employer could have decided that someone is going to get fired today, and pointed at you, and said, YOU'RE FIRED, now get!

    I'm sure your attorney wouldn't refuse your money.
    However, whether you should hire an attorney, that is entirely YOUR decision to make.

    Again, that is ONLY something you can decide.


    You weren't WRONGLY terminated, as there is no such charge you can make, because as at AT WILL employee, your employer is FREE to terminate you one minute after hiring you!

    I suggest you invest your time, money, and energy in securing your next paid employment.

    By the way, it isn't unusual for an employer that does "tech work" to terminate employees who get full benefits and wages while sitting at home and not employed in an engagement or project.

    Paying people to do nothing, other than be ready to work if we get work is a very costly endeavor.

    If I were you, I'd be busy hunting my next, great "gig".
     
    hrforme likes this.
  3. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    In every state in the US except for Montana, and sometimes even including Montana, employers do not need "good cause" to fire. They can fire you because the day of the week ends in Y. The only reason for which they cannot fire you is for a reason prohibited by law. Nothing in your (lengthy) posts suggests any reason for the termination that is prohibited by law; thus, this is not a wrongful termination. FYI; prevailing in an unemployment claim, for which good cause is needed, does not mean the termination was illegal.

    If there are facts you have left out that you believe would change the answer please feel free to post them.
     
    Michael Wechsler likes this.
  4. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    If you had an employment contract then you need to review that to determine what remedy you might have.

    The reasons you list as being weak sounds like very valid reasons to me. It sounds as if you were not doing anything but expect to be paid.
     
  5. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    I don't know what that means but unless you bench duration was because of you being in a protected class it is legal to fire you for it.

    Again unless that reason is based on being in a protected class it is legal to be terminated for it.
     
    Michael Wechsler likes this.
  6. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    First, let me note that most attorneys who litigate wrongful termination claims will give you a free initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose in consulting one or two but a bit of your time.

    That said, just from what you said here, there does not appear to be a good wrongful discharge claim. Understand that wrongful discharge means being terminated for a reason prohibited by law. In NJ a private employer does not need a good reason (what is know as good cause or just cause) to fire an employee. There are some reasons for firing an employee that are illegal, but they are fairly limited. The prohibited reasons include firing you because:

    • of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or genetic test information under federal law, and your race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital/civil union status, religion, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability (including perceived disability, and AIDS and HIV status) under New Jersey law;
    • you make certain kinds of reports about the employer to the government or in limited circumstances to specified persons in the employing company itself (known as whistle-blower protection laws);
    • you participate in union organizing activities;
    • you use a right or benefit the law guarantees you (e.g. using leave under FMLA);
    • you filed a bankruptcy petition;
    • your pay was garnished by a single creditor; and
    • you took time off work to attend jury duty,
    • and in NJ, because you either smoke or don't smoke outside of work, unless it is bona fide requirement of the job.
    Outside of those kinds of prohibitions, the employer is free to terminate employees for any reason. For example, it is legal for an employer to fire you just because your employer or manager dislikes you (as long as the reason for the dislike is not your race, color, religion, etc).

    You mention an employment contract. If the contract provided for a fixed term of employment (e.g. one year, five years, or whatever) and limited the reasons the employer could fire you then you may have more protection under that contract. If the employer fired you in violation of that contract that is not a wrongful termination case. That's a breach of contract case. If the contract does not have a fixed period of employment then generally the employment can be terminated at any time and you don't get much job security from that kind of contract.
     
    Michael Wechsler and hrforme like this.
  7. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for the really informational reply! But if that's the case, couldn't an employer technically fire you for any of the above reasons that are prohibited by law, but then just claim that it was for no reason and had nothing to do with the above mentioned prohibited reasons for firing?

    I suspect that is what is going on in my situation. Even more suspicious is that HR is refusing to send me a copy of my employment contract or documents outlining the bench policy, which include the details (basically they're making a case that they don't want to prove). Suggesting that they possibly do not want me to know about something in the contract that could potentially give me a better case for wrongful termination.. Normally giving a copy of an employment contract to someone who asks is no big deal right? Furthermore proving their case should be no problem if they truly believe they are right to terminate.

    Also according to this article:

    'Employment at Will' Isn't a Blank Check to Terminate Employees You Don't Like

    apparently it is not uncommon for people to sue employers who have terminated them for seemingly no reason.
     
  8. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    That's exactly what I am trying to do but HR lady responsible for my termination does not even want to send me a copy of it, which I think is really suspicious because it should not be a big problem at all for them to do that. If it says that they can terminate my contract at anytime they desire in the contract then I will back off because that says it all.
     
  9. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    Certainly some employers try that. The problem for the employer in that situation comes when the ex-employee presents some evidence which suggests that illegal discrimination was the reason. When an employer says in that circumstance "I fired him for no reason" that makes for a weak defense; a jury may readily conclude that illegal discrimination was the reason because employers don't fire anyone for literally no reason at all. They'll have some reason why they took that action. They need to convince the jury that the reason they offer (whatever it is) is the real reason for termination, not illegal discrimination.

    But so far you've not provided anything to suggest that illegal discrimination was the reason. If you sue for illegal discrimination, you need to have some evidence to suggest that illegal discrimination was at work in your termination.
     
    Michael Wechsler likes this.
  10. welkin

    welkin Active Member

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    Someone who is hired as an associate employee (in the state of NJ) and who signs a contract of employment, is not always considered an employee. But rather is considered an independent contractor by the courts and they are not entitled to statutory protection as an employee for wrongful termination.

    However, in NJ there is the common law tort of wrongful discharge doctrine if the reason for discharge is against the interest of public policy.

    And, once again, the test as to employee or IC is governed by the amount of control the employer had over the employee.

    It's hard to believe that someone would sign an employment contract and not have gotten a copy of it at the time of signing. But that seems to be the case..

    Here is a case that will explain the wrongful discharge doctrine and this one will explain exceptions to the at will doctrine. Only the first part of the first case is relevant.
     
    Michael Wechsler likes this.
  11. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Sure. Anyone in any situation "could claim" anything. However, no employer with any modicum of intelligence would ever claim a termination "was for no reason" because nothing in the history of the world has ever happened "for no reason." There's always a reason.

    Yes, some employers will fire someone for an illegal reason and claim it was for a non-illegal reason, and sometimes they'll get away with it. The system is designed so that that happens as infrequently as possible.

    As "Tax_Counsel" indicated, it should cost you nothing to consult with a local attorney.
     
  12. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Not hard to believe at all. In almost 20 years on legal sites I must have read thousands of posts where people sign stuff without getting and keeping copies. Also not reading and understanding what they sign in the first place.
     
    zddoodah likes this.
  13. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I think that many termination cases there are defensive stances which employers take which feel like they are hiding something. Although reading more on this topic regarding prolonged bench duration and the assumption that you were working for some technology consulting company, e.g. doing small development projects, this may not have been your fault. We don't know the situation and it's difficult to say. Unfortunately in most cases termination can be at will if you do not have a contract. If there is a policy in place at the company they may be explaining to you what is rote, that any issue regarding termination did not involve a violation of any internal company policy. This seems to be challenging case to find wrongful termination in absence of any other relevant information. Wish you the best of luck.
     
    banana_hammock likes this.
  14. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    This is very true. In fairness, I think people assume they will receive copies since that is what one may expect from the norm and that obtaining a copy at any time is presumed to be not too difficult since it's the agreement both had signed.
     
    banana_hammock likes this.
  15. banana_hammock

    banana_hammock Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you all for your very informative and thoughtful responses, but I think I may have to just give up on this because it seems like I don't have a very good case to present. As folks have mentioned above, I would need to have some evidence to prove there was some discrimination or wrongful termination. But it in my case, without the employment contract or any other hard evidence it seems it would be extremely difficult. I could maybe try to prove discrimination implicitly perhaps by stating that there have been people on the bench longer than I have who have not been terminated. But again I don't feel like that is a very convincing case.

    Furthermore, since I don't have the employment contract, I would be forced to assume that it says somewhere in there that they could terminate anytime they wish, or after a certain number of days on bench. I could consult with an attorney for free but there's always the possibility that they would lead me on just to get some money out of me. Which is why I wanted to consult with this knowledgeable community beforehand.

    I thank you again for your thoughts and opinions. If anything I gained some good knowledge and lessons to be remembered. I will be focusing my efforts on finding another software development or data science position for a better company and definitely keeping a copy of any important documents. Cheers!
     
    Michael Wechsler likes this.
  16. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    You'd need to show that the choice of who sat on the bench in that case was due to some reason that the law prohibits, like race, sex, religion, etc. If there was a pattern of, say, firing first the Black people on the bench while retaining the white guys and you were Black that would then set up an illegal race discrimination claim.

    You might still want to run your situation past an attorney who litigates wrongful termination cases just to make sure that you've not missed something that might be important. You may be right that there is not a strong case here. But it won't cost you anything but a little time to verify that.

    Bear in mind that people get fired every day for things that are not their fault. That's just a reality of working for someone else. Rarely today does someone work for just one company their whole career like my grandfather did. Sometimes getting fired even turns out to be a blessing in disguise as you find something even better that you'd have missed had you just stayed with the old company.
     

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