Falsely Accused Of Improper Language

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about :

My HR came to my work area and stated that he needed to talk to me about an altercation with a security Officer, and asked me if I said anything improper to anyone. I told him I didn’t say anything to anybody, directly or indirectly, and about the security officer, I told him that I walk out of the building every night with the same group of people.

Well the HR came back and told me that he was dismissing for improper language. I didn’t receive a Warning, I had 2.5 points that they could take. Now the company recently lost a contract, and I believe they are firing people to keep from paying unemployment benefits. What’s your opinion? Is there anything the Labor Board can do to investigate?

Signed, Not Warned, But Worried

Dear Not Warned, But Worried:

You tell us that you did not get a Warning. However you fear that you might be targeted for firing unjustly because you think your company wants to downsize without paying unemployment benefits. Your worry about that might be justified. I know such is possible. What can you do if you do not have a union that could fight firings of that kind? Do you as an individual have any recourse if you are fired for an unjust cause?Without a union or government protected discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, national origin, or disability, individuals can be fired for good reason or no reason under the “at will” doctrine. That is to say, in your case, I expect you could not argue legally that you were discrimintly singled out. So what can you do to guard against Warnings piling up to justify your company firing you?

You say you “had 2.5 points that they could take.” You do not say in your query: 2.5 points out of how many points? Should I assume you have had points taken for other reasons and you are near the limit for disciplinary action, such as firing? Should there be only 2.5 points left in your account, might that be like a college student who has gotten Ds and one more failed test will mean he/she fails the course or who has been warned about being disruptively drunk in class and if found disruptive one more time will be dismissed? I don’t mean to imply you have a bad record, but if you do, I can understand why you are worried that one more offense, whether real or imagined, can be used to fire you.

Whether or not this is your situation, you are wary. You want to not be late to work, not be careless about your assignments, and not do anything that can be used to justify 2.5 more points taken from you. The practice of having others with you when you exited enabled you to tell HR that you did not badmouth a security officer. There may be no way you can protect yourself from something you do being used to justify your firing. But if you are fired for what you think is unjust you can inquire of a labor attorney to learn if you have a case. You say, “I believe they are firing people to keep from paying unemployment benefits.” And you ask: “Is there anything the Labor Board can do to investigate?”

This is a matter about which you can contact your state and/or federal representative or Department of Labor? State and Federal Departments of Labor should investigate if you have ample evidence of trumped up firings to avoid unemployment payments. The question you will be asked is: What makes you think this in happening? How many people have been fired and what were the reasons given for that? Were they fired for losing points that you and/or others view as unjustified? Collecting data will require some effort and you will need to have enough of such examples to persuade a Labor Department to initiate an inquiry or a Labor Attorney will need to collect such data to make a case.

Please keep us posted on what you do. Grassroots sharing of this kind of information is what our site is about. Ask The Workplace Doctors is a forum for questions and answers to situations such as you pose. HR’s threat of a warning has made you wary and you will need to stay alert. But don’t allow yourself to see the only the negative, to assume management is out to get you. To do that can sour and be a self-fulfilling-prophesy. Rather, is not now a time to put yourself in the shoes of management; to do all you can to make your workplace profitable by finding ways to cut waste; wasted supplies, time, effort and to put your mind to innovations that could improve the quality of goods and service? If these thoughts don’t make sense, I hope they will prompt you to think of other ways to make these next few months a little less worrisome for your days at work. After all work is hard enough without having HR on your back. I sign off with this thought: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. What might this thought mean to you?

William Gorden