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Is this Wrongful termination?

Lancaster, PA |

I was recently fired from my company for what they say is insubordination and disorderly conduct. I acted out one day as a result of my boss harassing me on the job. My boss said some things to me and I felt disrespected from what he had said and as a result kicked at an empty trash can resulting in it falling over. My boss also accused me of arguing with him when I wasnt and threatened to send me home because of it. He even followed me around the job watching me as I do my work to see if I would make a mistake to further justify his attempts to send me home. At the end of the day he called his boss and got his boss involved in it saying to his boss that he feels I acted in a way because i was told to do something and I didnt really want to do what i was told. I was then fired as a result

The company has a no tolerance policy on harassment t in the workplace and I told them following the incident and even my boss (the one that harassed me) that I felt some type of way about what he had said and the company didnt do anything to my boss about it.

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

It sounds as though the grounds for your termination were legitimate and appropriate, based on what you describe. Also, what you perceive as "harassment"--the apparent disrespectful statements from your boss--is not harassment in the legal sense. If, for example, these statements related to some legally protected characteristic you possess (e.g., disability, gender, race, color, etc.), were especially derogatory, and happened quite frequently (even before the fateful incident that got you terminated), then perhaps you would have a viable claim of harassment under the law. If your boss' statements were merely criticisms your work performance (fair or unfair), they would not be considered harassment in the legal sense.

In any event, you need to take accountability for your (admitted) inappropriate actions and move forward.

Asker

Posted

If someone said something to me and I took offense to what was said then that is a form of harassment. Its not considered "serious" harassment, but harassment none the less

Asker

Posted

And for him to create a hostile work environment for me because of what he said constitutes that as well

Nathan Kased

Nathan Kased

Posted

Sure, just not harassment in the legal sense.

Nathan Kased

Nathan Kased

Posted

Hostile work environment has a very specific meaning under the law. What you describe does not qualify.

Asker

Posted

The grounds for my termination where not legit. Insubordination is being told to do something and not doing it. If I did the work that I was told to do but later fired because I supposedly did not do the work then thats no grounds for me to get fired.

Nathan Kased

Nathan Kased

Posted

I hate to break this to you, but in most states employment is "at will." this means that an employer may fire an employee for any reason that is not against the law, even if the reason does not make sense or is flawed. So, even if your employer was wrong about the alleged insubordination, it was within its right to fire you.

Asker

Posted

Alot of companies throw in insubordination with whatever else you did to make it seem like you did more than what you really did. Because alone the kicking of the trashcan wouldnt of been enough to fire me if I had just cause.

Asker

Posted

Its wrong to claim something happened that didnt happen at all

Asker

Posted

Companies have to find reasons to justify termination so they wont be liable if a lawsuit were to come up. Companies just cant fire you for any reason at all. Expecially for one that isnt true at all. If I can justify me not being insubordinate why fire me because I was.

Nathan Kased

Nathan Kased

Posted

They can fire you for any reason that is not against the law and do it all the time. Unless you have an employment contract for a specific term or belong to a union, you are mostly out of luck. I'm sorry about your situation, but that is reality.

Asker

Posted

If companies can fire anyone for not apparent reason how is it some people are entitled to unemployment compensation and other win lawsuits filed against some of the companies.

Asker

Posted

Clearly there is a difference between right and wrong.

Asker

Posted

Falsifying documentation is against the law.

Posted

Mr. Kased has provided a clear and entirely accurate statement of the law applicable to your employment.

You work in an at-will state and your employer has a lawful right to terminate you for any reason under the sun -- or even for no reason whatsoever -- unless the reason is specifically prohibited by state or federal law. In this case, your own description of the facts on which your termination was based serves as ample legal justification for your employer's decision and action to terminate you.

It is irrelevant under the law how your conduct is labeled. So, here, your employer could terminate you for kicking a trashcan, being rude and impatient with a supervisor, being unreceptive to direction and supervision, being antagonistic to a colleague or supervisor -- the list of bases for justification of the termination decision here is potentially pages long. Any one of them is sufficient under the law. You can call it insubordination. Or you can call it bad attitude, or just call it personal animosity and dislike. You can even call it irrational personal prejudice -- makes no difference at all to the legal analysis and result.

You should also know that in an at will employment state, a termination is lawful even if the employer is wrong about the reason, and even if the employer's belief about the reason is unreasonable. What that means is that even if you weren't the employee who kicked the trashcan, you can still be fired for kicking the trashcan. No warning or advance "write-up" is required by the law; no proof is required; the employer is not even required to investigate the matter. The plain fact is that your employer could lawfully terminate you for the look in your eye or the tone of your voice, just one word into the incident that you describe. Or the employer could terminate you that day just because someone doesn't like you -- totally legal unless the dislike is based on your race, gender, age, etc.

Your sequence of comments to Mr. Kased's correct responses indicates that you have a very difficult time accepting or respecting instruction, direction or decisions by others. That problem may have made itself felt in your most recent employment and may have played a part in the general assessment of you. That, in turn, may be something for you to think about in your next employment.

As for all of the big lawsuits that you have read about, those inevitably are based on lengthy litigation or negotiations that ultimately proved that the employer's conduct was in violation of a legal requirement -- usually one involving "protected" classifications such as race, gender, etc. Nothing in your factual summary indicates that such protected classification played any part in the decision to terminate you.

By all means, consult with one or more local employment litigators for a fuller and more specific analysis of your matter. But go to such consultation understanding that you are an at-will employee and that is the largest and most significant fact of the matter.

And make your application for unemployment benefits even if you anticipate that the employer will contest it. The decision as to your entitlement for UI benefits is an entirely separate decision from the determination of the legality of your termination.

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.

Posted

You have heard from two California-based lawyers (both of whom have accurately stated the situation) and I am merely chiming in, as a Pennsylvania-based employment lawyer to reiterate the validity of what you have been told (despite your comments, all of which reinforce what has been said).

Pennsylvania is an at-will state in which you can be terminated at any time for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. You can be terminated because your employer requires you to stand on your head and spit nickels, but all you can muster are dimes. Disagreeing with a supervisor or coworker is one of the best ways to find yourself unemployed.

Unlawful harassment is *only* harassment which is "severe and pervasive" and is based upon your sex, age (over 40), a disability, national origin, religion or race. You have raised none of these issues. Even without assessing whether you were at fault for what happened (and, frankly, it appears you are) you have no legal recourse, and, yes, insubordination may just get you knocked off the UC rolls as well, especially in PA where the bureau is making it increasingly difficult to secure benefits.

In fact, even if the harassment were based upon any of the protected classifications I mentioned, your arguing with your boss could well serve as a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for your termination, and could effectively take your employer off the hook for unlawful discrimination.

What happened may not have been fair; it might not even have been reasonable; but that doesn't mean it was unlawful.

Remember, you cannot get legal advice over the internet any more than you should take medical advice from a doctor who has not examined you. This site is designed to point you in the right direction. You have to do the rest. Our dialogue does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Asker

Posted

I get a better understanding of what i was trying to say. Harassment whether or not in was severe or not is still harassment. You cannot justify the fact I felt some type of way by what my supervisor said to me. And to come in on his day off and harass me at work makes it even worse. My company has a no tolerance policy for harassment. So for them to overlook that regardless if I did anything wrong is a mistake on thier part. But i guess your going to say they can do what ever they want to do. Ive been trying to explain this whole time that i was not insubordinate at all. Thats something the company wanted to pin on me along with the disorderly conduct. Yes i kicked a trash can but the company has to decide whether that is enough to fire me or not. Which in this case it was not. Insubordination is being told to do something and not doing it. If I was told to clean (which I was told to do) and i did clean than that would not constitute me being insubordinate in any way. Regardless of whether I took my time to clean or questioned cleaning to my supervisor the work was still done.

Asker

Posted

I wasnt arguing with my boss at all. That was a statement that was made from my boss when he came in and tried apologizing to me for disrespecting me and I didnt except his apology. I had to explain to him that I wasnt arguing with him and he really has no basis for trying to send me home

Asker

Posted

He created a hostile work environment for me because I felt like I couldnt be around him.

Asker

Posted

The harassment was done over the phone while my boss was at home and I was at work. He then said that he was coming in and I didnt know how to take that. He just disrespected me over the phone and then says hes coming in afterwards. I didnt know if he was going to come in and disrespect me even more. Come in to basically antagonize the situated that was created by him.

Asker

Posted

Im not necessarily saying the harassment constitutes unlawful harassment or protected harassment but it is harassment none the less. And for a company to not address that when you have a no tolerance policy for harassment in the workplace to me makes no sense. To try to cover up the fact that i was harassed by my supervisor by saying that I was insubordinate and being disorderly and then firing because of that is retaliation which is against the law

Asker

Posted

If all companies could fire employess at will there wouldnt be any laws against wrongful termination. Even states that are at will states have to follow laws when firing employees. Ive done research on this and for lawyers to sit here and say I dont know what im taking about is a bunch of crap.

Harold Mark Goldner

Harold Mark Goldner

Posted

You say "I've done research on this and for lawyers to sit here and say I dont know what im taking about is a bunch of crap." Well, Mr. Justice Asker, you must more know than I do. As far as I know, and I've only been doing this for 32 years, *no* Pennsylvania statute provides for a claim of "wrongful termination." Wrongful termination is a common law claim available ONLY to non-union employees who are terminated in violation of "public policy." Our courts have interpreted "public policy" to mean "something enacted by the PA legislature or the US Congress." I'm sure in your thorough research you've discovered that there is NO statute that protects you from what it is you were the victim of, regardless of whether you call it "harassment" or you call it a "fluffy bunny." Three lawyers have patiently tried to explain this to you. We didn't fire you. You got yourself fired. Move on and learn from the lesson. We're done here.

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