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fastlikedog

Moral Turpitude?

8 posts in this topic

I am assuming Fallen will be answering this, so this is a follow-up question to my question about 8 down (I was asking the inane questions haha). New question though - I was wondering what I could do if the reason I was fired was for 'moral turpitude' when in the state of California they define a crime of 'moral turpitude' as 4 or more DUI convictions. Does the law have any bearing on what is define by the employer? Can I argue with the labor commissions or even unemployment if they contest my claim that I was fired for something that is unlawfully defined? I am really trying to understand more of how this works so hopefully you can provide some insight again. Thanks.

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Wow man, thank you so much. Just what I was looking for. I will definitely read this over and contact a lawyer immediately to see what they say. I honestly felt completely unjust after I left work that day, because I was so confused as to how that could possibly happen even though I was a salaried manager. You're the man, thanks for taking your time to reply.

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Pay no attention to stebbinsd. He's not a lawyer and he's not in CA. CA is an at-will employment state. Unless you had a written contract of employment (not just the employee handbook) or are a union member covered by a CBA, you are an at-will employee that can be terminated at any time for no reason at all. If the employer has a reason, it cannot be based upon membership in a protected class-i.e. race, religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation. People who are convicted of a crime that occurred outside of their work duties is not a protected class so you can be fired for suffering the conviction. Being fired "for cause" is how your UIB gets denied. Getting a DUI outside of work is not a termination for cause that the unemployment folks would recognize UNLESS your job requires a spotless driving record and/or that you be able to drive during the course of your employment which you wouldn't be able to for a time because of the conviction.

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So many sides, haha.

I did have an employment contract, I was a manager at a hotel on salary under contract. I am receiving a copy of all the documents tomorrow to review so I can get back to you on what it defines as my course of employment if it helps. I understand that it is not a protected class but if the reason they decided to fire me was because of moral turpitude due to the DUI offense and CA doesn't define a misdemeanor DUI an offense on moral turpitude, how can they justify their claim and decision to fire? My job did not require me to drive or have a clean driving record as far as I remember (we had no shuttle van), so I am hoping my UIB stays intact.

It seems to me that the employee handbook would be considered an extension of my contract as it is part of the hiring procedures to sign it. Even if it's 'at-will', after reading that document that stebbinsd provided it seems as if there might be some truth to what he's saying as my argument isn't against my conviction it's against my conviction not being recognized by the state's policies against moral turpitude - but that being the 'just cause' reason to fire me. Am I wrong?

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stebbinsd said...

So, you've got a much better chance at successfully suing him, not for

discrimination, but for breach of quasi-contract. California is one of

the most liberal states in America, so you might have a good chance,

there.

Simply because CA is in general a liberal state should not lead one to think the the doctrine of a covenant of good faith and fair dealing discussed in that article is broadly applied in CA. It's not. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, stated the following regarding this line of argument in a case it reviewed:

Lee presented virtually no evidence of any reasonable expectation on

her part that she could not be terminated at will, and therefore has not

rebutted the presumption that her contract was at will. Because there

was not an implied contract, there cannot be a breach of the covenant of

good faith and fair dealing. See Foley, 47 Cal.3d at 684, 765 P.2d at

389, 254 Cal.Rptr. at 228.

Lee v. Loehmanns, Inc., 93 F.3d 651 (9th Cir. 1996). This opinion indicates two notable things. One, that the starting presumption is employment at-will in CA. Second, that in order for an implied contract to be found, the employer must have done something to give the employee the reasonable expectation that his/her employment was other than at will.

Moreover, it now sounds as though the employee may have had an employment contract of some kind with the employer. If so, then the terms of that agreement are extremely important to analyzing the outcome here.

Certainly fastlikedog should see a CA employment law attorney to go over all the facts that he has and advise him as to what remedies, if any, are available to him. But I suggest he not get high hopes of winning on the doctrine discussed in that article. CA does not have the kind of broad rule that you suggest. One of the problems with a very general overview article like the one you linked is that it lacks discussion of the details of any state's law that are important to understanding exactly how the doctrines discussed are actually applied.

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So, if I was able to prove somehow that my employment contract does not specify a concrete 'at-will' clause then I would have a better chance of applying the broad interpretation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealings? Would length of employment and suddenness of the firing have anything to do with implying this?

Obviously I am not a lawyer - but this all interests me beyond the fact that I was fired. I have spent almost my entire week looking into all of this and am getting a lot of different information from a lot of sources. I know it is very tricky - especially in CA - to make anything cut and dry but it seems to me that it is presumed I am 'at-will' unless my contract otherwise states so or my employer gave me any reason to think otherwise, which I would have to prove. Yet, if there was any inclination that I had the impression I was not 'at-will' (ignorance of the fact?) then my firing might not be just because the offense of my conviction did not breach any statute of moral turpitude as defined in CA law and covered by the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, backed up by the fact that there were others with the same convictions who were not investigated and subsequently fired. That.. sound about right?

Thank you all again for the discussion, everything helps me put the pieces together.

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It's best to post follow-ups as a "reply/answer" to the existing thread vs. starting a new one.

It should matter to the unemployment folks whether the employer doesn't have a routine policy of firing folks for DUIs and that other folks with DUIs are still working there. I've already mentioned that I don't think the UI folks will care about this in terms of denying you benefits. If the employer always fired folks for DUIs and made it well-known that someone would be fired if they get one, that'd be another matter.

You don't bother to mention the terms of this contract. If the contract says it's effective until, say, December 31 and it doesn't mention that it may only be terminated for good cause and doesn't define that (even if the handbook mentions stuff about "moral turpitude" but leaves it vague/broadly defined or not defined at all), then you're free to sue the employer for breach of contract. The employer doesn't have to justify its reason or have a reason even in the face of a contract; whether it will be obligated to pay you for X period of time is another matter if indeed there was a contract guaranteeing you employment through X without a viable "out" for the employer. Typically, employers aren't going to enter into fixed-term contracts with other than key or executive workers.

I can't fathom why you wouldn't have kept or made copies of an employment contract before handing documents back over to the employer. In future, don't do that -- even if you have to say "well, let me look at these tonight and get back to you."

It doesn't matter how CA defines "moral turpitude" unless the contract mentions "moral turpitude" as being a basis upon which you may be fired.

"My job did not require me to drive or have a clean driving record as far as I remember (we had no shuttle van)..."

Doesn't matter (and I'd argue a hotel manager wouldn't be required to drive folks or stuff around, no).

Again, the employer doesn't need "just cause" to fire you unless you ensured the contract says so.

By the way, contrary to more than one thing stebbins said -- most of which I won't bother to debate -- I'm not a "he". :)

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