California Employment Law
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Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.
Have you experienced any negative employment action as a result of this false accusation? When you say "changing an email," what exactly do you mean? Thanks so much.
Not at this time. I have a meeting with my manager tomorrow to discuss the accusation.
I see. Well, assuming that you do not have a contract guaranteeing you employment for a specified period of time, you are an "at will" employee, meaning your employment is terminable "at will" by your employer for any reason, no reason, or even a reason that is completely unfair or unfounded. (Labor Code section 2922) You are free to refute any false allegation to your employer, but your employer retains the freedom to terminate or demote you despite the fact that the allegation is false.
It is generally best to refute all allegations in WRITING.
Furthermore, California law actually requires that employers allow employees and former employees access to their personnel files and records that relate to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee. (Labor Code Section 1198.5)
You can make a request to review your personnel file to determine your employer's record of your "misconduct."
Finally, if you can prove that another employee made a false accusation about you and you lost your job or experienced other negative employment action as a result, you m ay have a claim of defamation against the coworker who told the lie.
However, such cause of action would only exist if you experienced actual damages stemming from the false statement, and as of yet that does not appear to have occurred.
We had a meeting the other day (6 present - 5 co-workers plus manager). We discussed an email that I had shown to my manager and the co-worker who wrote the email accused me of modifying the email in front of all present. I have a meeting tomorrow to discuss this situation. I want to ensure that this practice is stopped. Can I ask that my accuser be suspended without pay? I want to send a message that this behavior will not be tolerated EVER.
You can certainly request that negative employment action be taken against the person who made a false statement about you, but your employer would ultimately retain the discretion to implement discipline or not.
It is always wise to correct any false statements made about you directly to your employer in a one-on-one meeting, as it appears you are already doing.
I can certainly understand why this whole situation is frustrating.
I am an "at will" employee. My concern is that if I do not respond/object (strongly) it may be perceived that such behavior is acceptable to me which may eliminate any recourse I may have in the future if there is negative action taken against me.
I completely agree that action should be taken to clarify that this statement is false to your employer. However, what I am trying to explain is that your employer ultimately still retains the discretion as to whether to initiate discipline against your co-worker. If your employer were to take negative employment action against YOU, you would likely have a cause of action for defamation against the employee who made the false statement.
I hope that this adequately answers your question.
Please also bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
Is there any cause of action against the employer if I am terminated based upon the false accusation?
yeah. that's what I thought. qualified privilege?
An employer retains the discretion to terminate an "at will" employee for any reason, no reason, or an incorrect reason pursuant to Labor Code section 2922.
A cause of action for defamation would exist against the employee who made the false statement, under some circumstances.
would it be helpful to get a union rep involved at this juncture or would it be a waste of time. I just want to work. I don't want to be sidetracked by the idiotic nonsense that seems to be prevailing in my immediate surroundings.
I can't recommend a course of action to you, I can only answer questions about the law.
That said, no adverse employment action has been taken against you or threatened against you.
So I'm not sure what a union rep could accomplish that you cannot on your own.
Have I adequately answered your questions?
gotcha. thank you so much for your time and insight. I will look into the labor code sections you have referenced. hope you have a very nice day. I will give you 100% rating. your responses have been very informative and on point. Not easy to do keyboard-to-keyboard.
Thanks so much, I'm so glad that I have been helpful. Please remember to "accept" my answer on your way out of the chat. Best of luck to you.