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Wrongful termination?


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#1 pookyloo

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 04:16 AM

I was recently terminated for slapping a male coworker who had been harassing and threatening me for quite some time. I had worked for the company for several years and as a result of the termination lost all the benefits I had accrued.

The company had employed a manager that was physically and verbally abusive to the office staff and even though this was reported, nothing was ever done about it. She eventually left for a position at another company and was able to get all her accrued benefits.

I have filed for unemployment and was denied due to misconduct, but am currently appealing. The company is contesting it.

I also want to add that I had not reported the harassment prior to the incident and do have proof that it occured.

Is there any merit for a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit? My state is Texas.

This has been a very stressful ordeal for me and any help is greatly appreciated.

#2 adjusterjack

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:48 AM

There was nothing wrongful or discriminatory about your termination.

You assaulted a co-worker.

That is NEVER the proper response to harassment and threats.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#3 pookyloo

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:25 AM

Yes, it was unprofessional, I agree. But if you were aware of the facts surrounding the incident, you wouldn't be so quick to judge.

#4 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:00 AM

Doesn't matter--you didn't report him so anything you say now will be discounted AND regardless of his behavior, unless he hit you first, you were in the wrong.

#5 JusCogens

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:45 AM

Have to agree with LegalWriterOne here.

Discrimination and office harassment laws are pretty broad in the protection that they afford to employees (versus managers) but the fact that you never reported these prior instances AND your reaction to the latest perceived offense pretty much eliminates any recourse for you.

If you find yourself in a similar situation later on always follow the established procedure and report any instances of harassment. You can't blame the company for not doing anything to prevent the harrassment if you never provided notice that it was occurring nor can you sue them for your termination after you assaulted another employee.

#6 pookyloo

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:47 AM

Perhaps, however the point that I am trying to make is that another employee repeatedly assaulted other coworkers and although it was reported, no action was ever taken. The company policy allows for 1. written warning 2. suspension for a period of time, or 3. termination. How can a company choose to implement strict policy for one employee, but completely overlook it for another?

I wanted to add that the harassment did not take place at work, therefore I saw no reason to report it to HR.

#7 LegalwriterOne

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:59 PM

The point, however, is that the employee you assaulted at work was NOT the employee that was reported for harassment of co-workers. You chose not to make any complaint with the employer about THAT employee's behavior. You cannot compare how one who was reported was treated by management when you didn't report the other at all.

#8 pookyloo

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 01:45 PM

I suppose I should have said something, but because the harassment never took place at work, I didn't think HR was the best venue for a complaint, nor would I have felt safe at home if this person had lost their job due to a complaint I made against them.

Thank you for the replies. I have a better understanding of why my employer made the decision that they did, although I still think the punishment far exceeded the crime.

#9 adjusterjack

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 05:09 PM

Yes, it was unprofessional, I agree. But if you were aware of the facts surrounding the incident, you wouldn't be so quick to judge.


I would.

In penal codes it's the crime of assault and/or battery for which you can be prosecuted and subject to fine and/or imprisonment. You could also face a lawsuit for personal injury.

When somebody lays a hand on you, you are allowed to respond with force that is appropriate to self defense.

Anything else, you figure out some other way of handling it regardless of how provoked you fee.

And if your employer won't protect employees then you seek employment elsewhere before it escalates to your detriment.

Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#10 pookyloo

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:48 PM

In penal codes it's the crime of assault and/or battery for which you can be prosecuted and subject to fine and/or imprisonment. You could also face a lawsuit for personal injury.

When somebody lays a hand on you, you are allowed to respond with force that is appropriate to self defense.


A 120 lb. woman slaps a 180 lb. man and this is the wisdom you have to share? Personal injury? Respond with force? In this case, your statements are absurd.

#11 pg1067

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:54 AM

But if you were aware of the facts surrounding the incident, you wouldn't be so quick to judge.


What did you expect? You asked us to judge the situation when you asked if "there [was] any merit for a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit." You also chose which facts to share with us and which facts not to share.


Is there any merit for a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit?


Probably not. The two critical facts are that you committed battery (and possibly also assault) upon a co-worker and had never previously reported the co-worker's alleged "harassing and threatening" conduct. Important facts that you did not share include the nature of the alleged harassment and threats and whether the co-worker held any sort of position of authority over you.


the point that I am trying to make is that another employee repeatedly assaulted other coworkers and although it was reported, no action was ever taken. The company policy allows for 1. written warning 2. suspension for a period of time, or 3. termination. How can a company choose to implement strict policy for one employee, but completely overlook it for another?


Phrasing this in terms of "how" doesn't make a lot of sense. If your intent was to ask whether an employer is legally required to treat every situation in an identical manner or risk a discrimination lawsuit, the answer is no. In fact, most discrimination is perfectly legal. It is only illegal where it is based on things like race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. You provided no information as to why your employer treated your situation differently, except that you described the other person as a "manager." That alone suggests that different treatment may have been appropriate.


I wanted to add that the harassment did not take place at work, therefore I saw no reason to report it to HR.


That was certainly your choice, but it makes the background that led to your criminal act even less relevant (even if the person was a supervisor and the alleged harassment was sexual in nature).

#12 Fallen

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 08:48 AM

Naturally, if this person was behaving badly at work, that's presumably why you slapped him. It's a shame you didn't resort to other methods to deal with his behavior (like complain at work). Giving into fear that this person would do X in retaliation if you complained about him hasn't gotten you anywhere, I'm afraid.

A tad difficult to expect folks to validate your position on this when you don't say anything about what this person did outside of work. If someone was harassing and threatening you outside of work, you'd presumably involve law enforcement on some level even if his behavior wasn't criminal. At any rate, if you have resources to pursue, you're free to engage a personal injury attorney and sue that person for intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc., etc.

For all we know, this manager of which you speak was good friends with someone or knew where a body or two was buried. Naturally, any physical damage to workers should have been met with them discussing the matter with a personal injury attorney who handles workers' comp (but I suspect the injuries if any didn't rise to the level of a "case").

I wouldn't expect the unemployment folks to side with you regardless, I'm afraid.

I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#13 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:28 AM

To learn more about your rights as an employee, you may want to visit the Employment Law Center as a good resource.

#14 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:43 PM

When the employer is not a government agency, then the employer may legally fire you for any reason (or no reason at all) except for a few reasons prohibited by law. The prohibited reasons include firing you because:
• of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic test information under federal law (some states/localities add a few more categories like sexual orientation);
• you make certain kinds of reports about the employer to the government or in limited circumstances to specified persons in the employing company itself (known as whistle-blower protection laws);
• you participate in union organizing activities;
• you use a right or benefit the law guarantees you (e.g. using leave under FMLA);
• you filed a bankruptcy petition;
• your pay was garnished by a single creditor or by the IRS; and
• you took time off work to attend jury duty (in most states).


Slapping a co-worker is not among the sort of things in the above list, and as a result it is not wrongful termination to fire you for it. You indicate that a manager was not fired for being “physically and verbally abusive” to her staff, but she evidently voluntarily left at some point. Without knowing all the details of what she did and what you did, it’s impossible to comment on whether any illegal discrimination occurred here. However, since your responses here suggest you are also a woman, it would seem that no sex discrimination was responsible for the differing treatment between your case and that manager’s situation. Are you also a manager? If not, that alone might explain the differing treatment. Discrimination based on her being a manager and you being a non-management employee is not illegal. Lots of companies treat managers better than the ordinary employee. No big surprise there.

Most companies I’m familiar with will fire an employee who hits another. The reason for that is that having an employee whom you know may hit someone else is a potential liability for the company. It’s better to simply get rid of those employees than take the risk of liability for what that employee might do next.

I can understand from your perspective it’s not fair as you evidently feel justified in slapping this guy. As you’ve not explained what lead up to slapping him, I have no way to judge whether you were justified. But in the end, it’s not my view that matters. Your employer may take a very different view of it, and the employer is entitled to decide that what you did was not acceptable and fire you for it.




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