Worker Feels Firing Over Gossip Unjust
Question From a Client
Q: “I was fired recently, supposedly for starting rumors about a relationship between my supervisor and a salesman in our office.
I didn’t start any rumors, but they became suspicious when my boyfriend at the time raised the subject with a coworker who is a friend of the supervisor. My supervisor, who was nice and happy one minute, became hostile.
I called in sick one day, and when I came back I was fired. I was told that I was not a good fit and that I was being negative in the department.
My supervisor had no specific issues to back up the termination. I was written up only once, and that was regarding a totally different issue.
Can you just fire someone because you’re having an affair and the company is talking? Do I have any legal recourse against the company and the people involved in my firing?”
Our Attorneys Respond
A: “Employers have a great deal of authority to fire an employee who is gossiping about the boss. Many employees can be fired ‘at will’-with or without cause-simply because the boss does not like them or because there is ‘bad chemistry.’
Your employer’s right to fire you is not absolute, however. Your company may be required to have a good reason to fire you, especially if you worked there for a substantial period of time, if the employer has a policy requiring that it give notice or show good cause, or if the dismissal is based on discrimination or other illegal factors.
Among other things, you should evaluate whether fraternization between a supervisor and a subordinate employee violates company policy.
Additionally, evaluate if the supervisor granted more benefits to the one salesman. It might provide evidence of sex discrimination in the workplace.
If your former boyfriend also is an employee at your company, it seems unfair that you were fired and he kept his job. This also might be an example of a double standard and sex discrimination.
Finally, it may be just a coincidence, but it looks suspicious for you to be fired one day after calling in sick. There are many laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against certain employees who use authorized medical leave or have a disability. The nature of your sickness and the motivation of the employer would have to be further scrutinized.”
If you are facing a similar issue at work, reach out to our Orange County employment law attorneys.