Can I Be Fired For Defending Myself?


I got into a verbal alteration at my work place. This guy said “when I see you outside this plant I’m going to kick your ass.” I said, “If you put your hands on me outside this plant when I’m with my family, I will take out my gun and shoot you.” I got fired three weeks later.

Can I fight it in court? Before this happened I went to my manager and complained about this same person but nothing happened. What can I do?


Unfairly fired


Dear Unfairly fired:

You will need to talk to an attorney to find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit about this matter. Ask for a free consultation and be prepared with very specific information for the attorney or paralegal you speak with:

1. Were you told you were being fired solely for the comment you made about shooting the coworker? If there were other factors (or if your company says it was because of something else, whether you agree or not) the attorney will want to know what those were.

2. EXACTLY what was said, word for word? An attorney will want to know exactly the words you used and the coworker used, the tone of voice and any gestures or actions at the time.

3. What was it all about? The attorney will want to know what led up to the final argument and what was the cause of other arguments.

4. Are there witnesses who saw and heard all or part of it? The attorney will need to know their names and what they heard or saw. They may not want to testify, but he or she can at least talk to them about it.

5. You say three weeks later you were fired. Was the matter investigated during that time or did you hear nothing about it, but then one day you were fired? The attorney may be able to subpoena the documents to find out more about the situation and to find out who recommended firing you.

6. You say you complained about the coworker but nothing happened. Have the information about that ready for the attorney. When did you complain and about what? Did you put it in writing or was it verbal? Did they say they would investigate it but then didn’t, or did your supervisor not investigate it at all? Those are good things for an attorney to know.

The bottom line is there obviously were many things going on over a long time to lead up to this. Maybe your bosses were just tired of dealing with the conflict and felt you were more at fault than the other person. They may be wrong, but they probably can uphold firing you based on that and the combination of other issues that had been building.

I’m sorry it worked out this way and I hope you’ll be able to recover quickly from this and move forward with your life. I know it must be stressful for you and your family.

Be sure to take advantage of any resources possible for helping with your finances and other needs as well as for training, re-training and job placement. Check with your state’s department of labor and all the agencies you can find in your area that may be able to provide assistance. Best wishes in this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.