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Legal or illegal termination of employment?

Kalamazoo, MI |

I have been working for a university for the past 5 years. Iam also part of our union. In september i was arrested for posession of a controlled substance, but charges were immediatley dropped. My employer recently found out about this because i was in a car accident, they googled my name, and my mugshot from showed up and they terminated me (this is May now). They terminated me because i was arrested. is this legal? Iam signifficantly younger than our average employee (iam 25, and we have about a 45age medium) so i may feel they are using that against me because we have other convicted DUI employees, who are still employed. They somehow got a copy of my arrest record, and used it against me during the termination process. Is any of this legal for them to do?

our union president is filing a greivance, and hopefuly it will make it to arbutration.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. In your jurisdiction (Michigan), an employer's reason for terminating an employee is legal even if it isn't "accurate, wise, or well-considered." So your employer can terminate you for having a criminal record if, in their minds the record is inappropriate for your employment. There is an exception, however, if there is evidence of discrimination. Based on what you said about age, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) would not apply because it protects employees age 40 and OVER. Whether some other form of discrimination is at work, is a question for an attorney, based on many other factors.

    Comments and answers made on this forum do not create an attorney-client relationship.

  2. I agree with my colleague, Ms. Braxton. Unless the Collective Bargaining Agreement between your union and the university provides for additional protection, the university can terminate you for any reason or for no reason at all, so long the termination did not occur because of your race, gender, national origin, ethnicity, age, and perhaps a few other characteristics (height, weight, sexual orientation, etc.). If you believe that the termination was discriminatory, you should contact the EEOC and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to file a charge immediately. I wish you luck, and I hope this helps. Take care.

    My discussion with you regarding the question you posted on Avvo does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is my response to your question to be considered legal advice. While I do my best to provide helpful responses given the factual scenario presented, proper analysis of any matter requires a more in-depth conversation than what is practical on Avvo. If you are a member of the military, or if an immediate family member of yours lost his or her life while fighting for our country, I am proud to offer a 10% discount on my fee.

  3. WHAT'S your union doing in all this???
    They should be demanding your return to work
    WITH back pay and/or filing grievances. Are they?
    If NOT . . . you may have legal recourse against
    your union and officers.-----Good luck!


  4. I also wonder what your union is doing. Just cause is the standard for termination in a unionized environment (I'm a former union staff attorney). Job security is one of the biggest reasons workers organize. Just cause is determined by looking at a number of factors. I see that you have filed a grievance. That was the first step. Without knowing any other factor, it's hard to say if an arrest on its own would establish just cause. Your union will analyze that issue and decide if your grievance has merit for arbitration. As for discrimination, age wouldn't apply in your situation. Without more information, I don't see discrimination. However, the fact that convicted DUI employees are working can be used to help your grievance. If your union fails to process your grievance, you may then have a claim against the union. If you are a public employee, google the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, and if not public, the National Labor Relations Board, for more information on being a union employee.

  5. I respectfully disagree with the other posts in as much as I believe it would arguably be a violation of law to affect the terms and conditions of your employment if you were arrested on a misdemeanor charge that was later dismissed. It is not clear from your fact if the arrest was for a felony of misdemeanor. You should absolutely follow up with the Union and make sure that they follow up with a grievance. You may also want to use the following reference (MCL 37.2205a) in the grievance process to assist in getting your job back. What is it that you do at the University. I am trying to think if there is some exemption for public employees or 'teachers' when it comes to arrest protection but I don't think so. If you need the actual statute (MCL 37.2205a) contact me directly and I can provide it. Good luck.

    Each employment situation has unique facts and circumstances. This means that information and advice cannot be taken literally and should be used as only informational. The information provided here is not legal advice and should not be interpreted as such.

  6. In some circumstances, being terminated from employment for an arrest (especially one that did not lead to any conviction) can be unlawfully discriminatory because of the disparate and unjustified impact based on race and/or national origin.
    The EEOC recently issued guidance on this:
    Moreover, under Michigan state employment discrimination law, discriminating against younger workers in favor of older workers is unlawful. See Zanni v. Medaphis Physician Services Corp., 612 N.W.2d 845 (Mich.App. 2000).
    As mentioned by others, if the arrest did not lead to any conviction, it may not provide "good cause" or "just cause" for termination under your collective bargaining agreement.
    I'm glad your union is processing a grievance. You should continue to work with them as often the union process is the best way to resolve an unfair/unlawful termination. You should also consult with a creative and knowledgable employment attorney to see whether you have any viable wrongful termination claims that could be pursued via employment discrimination charge and/or litigation in court.
    I'm right here in Kalamazoo by WMU & K College and would offer you a free consultation. If after discussing in more detail I think you have a good case, I'm glad to work with your union to make sure we take a co-ordinated and strategic approach to challenging your employer's decision.
    Don't delay because there are some very short deadlines under employment discrimination laws. Also, if you haven't found another job that you are working full-time, you should immediately apply for unemployment benefits.

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