For the past 3 years I've worked for a certain company. On Tuesday I was brought into the office by the GM and introduced to a private investigator whom was employed/contracted by my employer. The guy took the next 2 hours to fire me on grounds that I was a "drug-dealer"....This is not true and they have no proof....The company has many well documented drug-users and addicts that work for them. I suspect that I was implicated based on this...I feel like this will be very detrimental to my future. Is there anything I can do????
I am a California attorney and cannot give legal advice in your state. My comments are information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT OFFER SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I mention your state’s laws, it only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state to learn your rights.
Generally, an employer can fire you for any reason it wants, as long as that reason isn't specifically prohibited, such as because of your sex or religion. Employees have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. There are some limitations, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process. An employer can fire an employee because of a misunderstanding. Please look at my Avvo guide to at-will employment which may help you understand your employment rights: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/a-short-summary-of-california-at-will-employment.
After you take a look at the guide I linked to above, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, you may wish to speak with an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney. The Avvo board is not set up to handle the kind of detailed analysis needed to offer helpful guidance. Avvo works best for short, specific questions that allow for short, specific answers. Perhaps more importantly, anyone can read the discussions on Avvo so they are not confidential. The employer or whomever is involved in the dispute can read everything written here.
If the employer is falsely accusing you of dealing drugs, it may be unlawfully defaming you. Defamation can be libel (written) or slander (oral). Each state has its own legal definition. Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement which exposes a person to hatred, contempt, ridicule or injury, or which causes the person to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure the person in his or her occupation. Some kinds of defamation require the plaintiff to prove actual harm. Other kinds of defamation is defamation per se, which means harm is assumed due to the nature of the defamation. You should consult with an attorney in your state to determine how your state defines defamation.
To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in your area, please go to the web site of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). NELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the country for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.nela.org, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.
Also, NELA has affiliates in every state and in many cities. On the NELA web site, you can look at the list of affiliates. Some attorneys will be listed in the affiliate membership list, some in the national organization membership list, and some in both. Being listed in one or both lists should not influence your selection because attorneys can choose whether or not to purchase the listing in the national directory. Each local affiliate has its own rules for listing.
I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.
*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
You don't have any defamation issues here, unless an untrue statement was made (published) by your employer to someone other than you (or to law enforcement).
The ugly truth is that your employer can terminate you for facts that are not true. The employer not only does not have to be right, the employer has no legal obligation to investigate the truth or to follow sound process in reaching a conclusion. And unless the employer makes a wrongful statement of fact (not opinion) to a 3rd party other than law enforcement and other than in proceedings disputing your right to unemployment benefits, you have not been defamed. It is a very harsh situation and one in which your interests are largely unaddressed by the laws.
I hope it will be helpful for you to realize that there some of the contents in your post suggest that there is significantly more here than you have disclosed: "This is not true and they have no proof...;" "The guy took the next 2 hours to fire me on grounds that I was a "drug-dealer..."; and "The company has many well documented drug-users and addicts that work for them." As both a former prosecutor and a long-time employment litigator, I will only offer that warning bells are ringing loudly here. I strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney about the entirety of this situation.
My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.
Ms. Spencer and Ms. Mccall give you good advice. And Ms. Mccall has addressed, very insightfully, parts of your posting. She astutely observes that your "not true and they have no proof" comment is among those remarks by you that are highly suggestive of there being more to the story: If it's "not true," then it is pointless to note that they have no proof.
For some reason, you seem to be mixing apples and oranges: The fact that there may be employees who use drugs has very little to do with the allegation that you sell drugs.
But the real point is that your company does not need to be right to fire you. In fact, the company doesn't need a reason to fire you, much less a good reason. Frankly, I think if a private investigator spends two full hours contending that you are a drug dealer, he must have said SOMETHING during those two hours. . . but you report nothing as to what was said, other than your conclusory suggestion that "they have no proof."
It's not defamation unless they communicate a false allegation to a third party. That has not been done.
Look, I'm not trying to determine your innocence or guilt. But if you want meaningful advice, you have to present all of the facts.
Anyway, it's time to look for a new job.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
I agree with the other posters that more information is needed to give you a full legal answer. Washington State is at-will employment, which gives employers the right to terminate you at any time, unless there is discrimination or protected action. However, an attorney may still be able to help you. At a minimum, an attorney may be able to look into the investigation and challenge the conclusions. An attorney may be able to help you by ensuring that your employment record with your last employer includes a challenge to the investigation or evidence that proves the investigation's conclusions are not true. An attorney may be able to use this information to ensure that the previous employer does not give you a bad reference for your future job search. If these options are something you are interested in, you should contact an attorney. Many attorneys offer a free consultation.
The above is for information purposes only and is not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, contact the Abdullah Law Firm at 206-363-0455.
"The company has many well documented drug-users
and addicts that work for them." Are you a police officer?
Even though your state is an at-will state . . . there are
LIMITS to what employers can do. You very well may
have a wrongful termination or even defamation cause
of action (lawsuit) against them. Good luck!
THIS ANSWER IS PURELY FOR ACADEMIC DISCUSSION ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ANY TYPE OF LEGAL ADVICE OR LEGAL REPRESENTATION.
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