If I was fired because of a yelp review. I didn't do anything that isn't in my job description. Is this wrongful termination?

Asked over 2 years ago - Los Angeles, CA

I have a clean work record with the company. Other people that were mentioned in the yelp review were not disciplined. The manager that fired me said "it may not be right, but I have to fire you". I was never given a warning or told I was supposed to report the incident. One day I was working the next day I was fired.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Michael Robert Kirschbaum

    Contributor Level 20

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You don't say what kind of work you do or the nature of the review, but I will assume you are an "at-will" employee and that the review included some form of a critique which reflected poorly on you. Unless you have a contract which restricts the ability of an employer to terminate the employment relationship, an employer may terminate for any reason not prohibited by law. This would include things such as customer complaints, whether founded or not. Wrongful termination does not include being terminated unfairly.

    If you have reason to believe the real reason for why you were terminated was an unlawful reason, such as age, race, gender, handicap (to name a few protected classifications), or in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney.

    They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion... more
  2. L. Maxwell Taylor

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Although I substantially agree with the other two answers posted by my colleagues to your question, I take issue with the proposition that you ought to consult with an employment lawyer. There is nothing in the facts you describe that causes me to suspect that you were terminated for a reason the law prohibits. Assuming you were an at-will employee terminated because of the content of a consumer's Yelp review, I know of no general principle of law that prohibits your discharge. What you describe sounds unfair to me, but not unlawful. And I strongly suspect that if you were to consult in person with an employment lawyer, s/he would tell you the same thing.

    All of which is to say, I don't agree that you ought to go get a consult with an employment lawyer. That's just something lawyers say to give themselves cover in case they missed something important. Such advice results in employment lawyers' getting even more phone calls from legitimately terminated employees who haven't suffered harms for which the law provides a remedy, but who expect the lawyer to counsel them for free. I see no claim here.

    Good luck with your job search.

    L. Maxwell Taylor
    L. Maxwell Taylor, Employment / Labor Attorney - Middlebury, VT
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    But don't take what I say here as legal advice. I don't practice law in California and don't hold California licensure. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who does.

    Daniel Christopher Knauth
    Daniel Christopher Knauth, Employment / Labor Attorney
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    In this case the person writing the question says that "Other people that were mentioned in the yelp review were not disciplined", suggesting differential treatment. The mere fact that the person writing the question doesn't think to mention things like race, religion, age or sex in the question doesn't mean that they might not be an issue. Most employment lawyers I know are willing to briefly discuss these sorts of situations to at least ascertain if there is an actionable claim-- if not for free, than for a consultation fee.

    L. Maxwell Taylor
    L. Maxwell Taylor, Employment / Labor Attorney - Middlebury, VT
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    I respect your response. My experience is that victims of discrimination on the basis of differential treatment based upon protected categories know in their bones that unlawful discrimination is occurring. One doesn't have to draw it out of them; THEY tell YOU. By contrast, terminated employees seeking legal advice who mention their protected status as an afterthought similarly know in their bones that unlawful discrimination didn't occur.

    That's just my experience. Your mileage may vary, so to speak.

    Michael Robert Kirschbaum
    Michael Robert Kirschbaum, Employment / Labor Attorney - Irvine, CA
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    With all due respect to my out of state colleague who cannot provide legal advice in California, I completely disagree with his belief we should not advise people posting questions to consult with an attorney if they believe they have grounds for a case (which he, ironically adds to his statement). To assume that the few sentences posted tells the whole story is short sighted. There is often more to the story than what has been posted. It is common for the poster to not know what is important to write and a knowledgeable attorney can get to the heart of the matter with a few incisive questions over the phone. There may be nothing there, but to simply write it off by telling someone they have no case without knowing all the facts is not doing service to the public.

    Daniel Christopher Knauth
    Daniel Christopher Knauth, Employment / Labor Attorney
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    I definitely agree with what you say... but sometimes a plaintiff's attorney is able to get some measure of justice for a client who believes they were treated unfairly even in the absence of bones.

    L. Maxwell Taylor
    L. Maxwell Taylor, Employment / Labor Attorney - Middlebury, VT
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    I respect Mr. Kirschenbaum's response also, both DESPITE the fact that he disagrees with me and also BECAUSE he disagrees with me. I have no doubt that he has counseled his share of would-be litigants who do not have actionable claims. Perhaps he has a more patient disposition with aggrieved former employees than I have at the present time, and perhaps also a better business model than mine. The focus of my frustration is with the cultural expectation that a discharge is likely to be actionable, versus the reality that very few discharges turn out to rest upon unlawful grounds. I appreciate all who respond meaningfully to my comments here, whether they agree with me or share my frustrations, or not.

    Christine C McCall
    Christine C McCall, Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    I share in the concerns expressed by Mr. Taylor. It's a discomfiting fact that in certain legal subject matters here on Avvo, -- and employment discrimination law and (oddly) libel law are two of them -- attorney responders sometimes tend to "fix" the poster's question or improve on the facts the questioner has provided with a short primer as to what could/should be contended for the matter to be actionable. I have no doubt that this practice is well-intentioned, and I don't find fault with any lawyer who makes the effort to provide more info rather than less. But I have long felt -- and personally struggled with -- the conviction that it is a professional obligation in this kind of forum not to sow or cultivate false or unrealistic expectations. No regular employment attorney participant here can fail to note how routinely the question is "can I sue" rather than "can I get my job back" and I think there is significance in that.

    As an an attorney with a small firm, no one has to explain to me the odd and inefficient reality that it is generally necessary for me to field a hundred calls from potential clients in order to identify the few that present a worthy case with a realistic likelihood of meaningful legal remedy. But I don't think the public -- or the questioners who use this service -- can see that, or be expected to. I go back and forth on this issue over time and have no good answer to offer, but I commend Mr. Taylor's frankness in raising the issue. It is a concern that merits on-going thought and reflection by the lawyers who regularly participate here.

    Marilynn Mika Spencer
    Marilynn Mika Spencer, Employment / Labor Attorney - San Diego, CA
    Posted over 2 years ago.

    This is an interesting discussion. I agree with Mr. Knauth and Mr. Kirschbaum. It would be malpractice to respond to an inquiry of a few lines with a definitive answer. Employment law is far too complex and fact-specific for that to be possible. And there are many reasons for attorneys' answers on Avvo. Some attorneys want to respond to the question only. Some attorneys are marketing. Some attorneys try to educate the asker and the public about the law. For me, I try to provide the best response I can to the question -- which is usually that more information is needed, because that is the reality -- and I try to give the asker and the general public who may read my response a summary of the law for their future edification. I cannot give legal advice on the basis of such scant information, but I can provide an explanation of the law so the asker can better determine whether to keep looking for a legal solution, or to forget the bad experience and move on. I do not believe an answer that only says "yes" or "no" without explaining why is useful, and it is likely to be incorrect at least some of the time.

    Very often, a potential client (PC) contacts my office for representation in a case the PC describes as "discrimination" or "wrongful termination." Usually, when I get more information, the PC does not have the claim he or she believed. However, the PC sometimes has another claim - often a wage and hour violation - that can provide a remedy.

  3. Daniel Christopher Knauth

    Contributor Level 12

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Generally speaking, absent a contractual right that would require cause for termination, an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the reason isn't prohibited by law (such as discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, disability). If the reason for the termination was a yelp review, it might not be "fair", but it wouldn't be grounds for a lawsuit. If, on the other hand, the reason you were singled out for termination was some sort of protected reason (for instance, your race, religion, sex, age or disability), that MIGHT be grounds for a claim. You would need to discuss further with an employment lawyer in CA to determine if any of those protections might apply.

    Answers to questions are meant to be general only, are not intended to be legal advice and do not create an... more

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