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I was accused of stealing money that I didn't steal. Can I sue for wrongful termination.

Washington, DC |

I was a manager at a restaraunt. After my shift I had dropped money into the safe. After it is dropped only a second party along with a manager can come get it. The manager, whom I think had something to do with it, said the money wasn't there. No investigation into the matter was done and I was eventually fired. They said regarding the circumsatnces we have to separate you from the company. Also, when an employer whom I sent an application to called them for an employment verification they said that I was fired for removing company property (the money that was missing). Is this legal?

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Attorney answers 2


Assuming you were an employee at will, it's not illegal to terminate you because they believed, even wrongly, that you stole money. They can terminate you for any reason or no reason, unlawful termination excepted.

What you describe is actually a very common situation. Employer wrongly believes employee committed theft. Employer doesn't have to be right to lawfully terminate employee. Even if you had a contract that you would hold your job unless there was good cause to terminate you, their belief that you committed theft would be enough. Otherwise, employers would have to continue to employ people whom they believed were stealing. And that makes no sense.

The issue of what they tell other employers is more problematic. In some places there is a statutory privilege which allows people to make communications, one employer to another, like the one you describe. On the other hand, if you didn't commit the theft, it sounds defamatory. Except you can't prove you didn't commit theft, and there is circumstantial evidence that you committed it. So, in my judgment, if you bring a defamation claim, you lose.

I'm not licensed in DC so don't take what I say here as legal advice. It's simply my analysis in light of the general principle. If you need legal advice, please consult a lawyer who holds DC licensure.

Good luck.


Correction to first paragraph of answer above: It should read, "unlawful discrimination excepted."

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