I was accused of making a statement that would have caused harm to people at the company I was working at for 6 years. An investigation was done and I was never contacted regarding the accusation...I was just terminated 30 days later. The reason was because they believe the person who made the accusation. I was not told who made the accusation.
What can I do about this problem? Is this a case for a lawyer to handle or will I just become a victim of a large corporation?
How can I get another job with this false accusation on my records. I am 58 years old! If I do not list this last employer on my application I don't have any marketable skills and what do I say I have been doing for the last 6 years.
In an "at will" employment state like California your rights are very, very limited, and based on your facts above, none. I would list the above on all future employment applications. Almost everyone has had an experience with "office politics".
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Employment / Labor Attorney
As an at will employee, your employer can terminate you for any reason, or even for no reason. It can terminate you on false information, and do so without any investigation. Its decision can be irrational, unreasonable and unfair. The only way an employer can face adverse consequences in a situation like this is if you could prove you were terminated because you are a member of a protected class of people, or because you had engaged in protected conduct and were retaliated against for doing so.
Unfortunately your post provides no suggestion that these motivations existed.
Good luck to you.
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Personal Injury Lawyer
While the other attorneys are correct that the facts stated would not give rise to a claim against your employer, an individual in your circumstance may have a claim for defamation against the individual who made a false statement about you. To be clear, this would not be a lawsuit against your company, but rather a lawsuit against your co-worker in his personal capacity on the ground that he made a false statement of fact that resulted in damage to you (your termination).
The challenge you will face is in actually proving this claim. You don't even know who made the statement, and even if you did., trying to prove that you didn't say something is usually very hard to do, since it typically comes down to your word versus someone else's. As the plaintiff, the burden of proof will fall on your shoulders.
All the best to you moving forward.
This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.
Employment / Labor Attorney
This is not a text-book investigation. Failing to give you a chance to tell your side of the story violates a basic rule of human nature -- that there are always at least two sides to a story.
So, I suggest you ask yourself the question: Why would my employer want to go out of its way to railroad me out of my job, based on a false accusation, without even hearing my side of the story?
Did you complain about unlawful behavior within the past year? Is the employer purging older workers from the workforce? Were you about to earn a big commission or bonus? Was there any other sinister, possibly unlawful motive?
If the answer is "no", and you are simply the victim of a shoddy investigation, that is very unfortunate but probably not a very strong legal claim.
One practical suggestion: you would be wise to be 100% accurate on your resume and job application. If you need to put a positive spin on the reason for termination, I suggest you talk to a recruiter or other professional who has dealt with this situation.
Finally, check your employee handbook. Some large companies have an internal dispute resolution system. Even if not, maybe you can write a letter asking people higher up in the corporation to take a second look at the investigation.
David A. Mallen
David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.
Wrongful Termination Lawyer
I agree a lot with Mr. Phillips, and a little with my other colleagues who have commented.
If you did not do the acts of which you were accused, you may in fact have a cause for defamation. The great part about defamation is that you won't have to prove the falsity of the accusation; the burden will be on the *employer* to prove the truth of the accusation. If you didn't do it, that puts you in the catbird's seat.
I disagree with Mr. Phillips only inasmuch as you may very well have a defamation claim against your employer, as well as the individual. Depending on who the accuser was, he may have been acting as the company's agent when he made the accusation. In addition, as you point out, you will have to tell prospective employers why you lost your job. That's termed "compelled self-publication," and can constitute defamation.
I also think that your facts show the possibility of age discrimination, although only weakly. If the accuser was much younger than you, the fact that you weren't even interviewed raises suspicion that there was some sort of animus toward you. The issue will be proving what. You worked at the company for only 6 years, not 30, so you were already 52 when you started. That's why I said the indications of age discrimination are weak. Nonetheless, did you change supervisors during those 6 years? Were the people who hired you the same as the people who fired you?
You will want to see an employment attorney to analyze your case and to determine if there is something there that indicates illegal activity occurred.
I'm sorry this happened to you.
Craig T. Byrnes
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not offering legal advice, nor forming an attorney-client relationship with you. I am not representing you, nor doing anything to protect your legal rights. If you believe that you have suffered a legal wrong, take action before any statute or limitations expires, or your right to do so may be lost forever. Good luck in your legal matter.
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Employment / Labor Attorney
Generally, being terminated due to false accusation is not against the law, especially if the company conducted an investigation, even if that investigation was not conducted perfectly.
However, because age discrimination is so common and because you are 58, it would be worth looking into whether you were in fact terminated due to your age and the accusation was just an excuse.
The first step should be finding out who was hired to replace you. If that person is substantially younger, and if you also noticed a pattern of replacing older employee with the younger ones around you, it might be a good start in pursuing an age discrimination claim.
San Francisco & Sacramento Employment Lawyer