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Ask Tina Your Own Question
Tina, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 33166
Experience:  JD, 17 years experience & recognized by ABA for excellence in employment law.
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I was terminated for being observed in an act off hours and

Customer Question

I was terminated for being observed in an act off hours and had nothing to do with work. Is this legal?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Tina replied 4 years ago.
hello and welcome.

Does the employer have a policy stating you could only be terminated for good cause or did you have a contract with the company indicating that?

Were you engaged in a political act or some other legal right for which you were terminated?

Do you have any reason to believe you may have been discriminated against on the basis of your race, age (40 or older), gender, disability, or other protected status?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm not sure about the policy, i was observed kissing another employee for the company, however we do not work at the same store, we were brought in to do a new store set and were both among other employees put up in a hotel near the new store and one night i was observed by another employee kissing this woman, off hours. i have never been performance managed or or had any prior counselling at any other time. They also stated that they had footage of the incident from the hotel but i believe that to be a lie since there was no criminal act i do not believe the hotel would have been able to hand over that footage. We were both outstanding employees, i was being considered to be promoted to a new store as the General Manger as well so i am really at a loss as to why i was fired, what is confusing is that there was a married couple brought in from another store to do the set as well so i do not see how they can justify terminating us just because we kissed, after hours when they openly support a married couple to work in the same environment. I am basically looking to see if i have any grounds to go after some type of compensation for the firing, like back pay or to get my job back, any help or insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Expert:  Tina replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for the additional information.

where there is no employment contract or policy stating otherwise, employees are normally employed at will, meaning that either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time without good cause. Many employees are surprised to hear this, since it is often in a company's best interest to treat employees fairly and consistently, but it is not required by law.

Therefore, unless there are grounds to assert a breach of contract claim against the employer, allege discrimination based on age, race, gender, or other protected status, or retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, there would normally not be any grounds to seek legal recourse against the employer.

Another exception to the employment it rule doctrine involves a situation where the employer is a government entity. Where an employee is engaging in constitutionally protected activities, the employer may not discipline or terminate the employee for engaging in such conduct. However, that exception does not apply to private employers.

Therefore, unless the employer here is a government entity, it does not appear there would be a cause of action that could be pursued against the employer.

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Also remember, sometimes the law does not support what we want it to support, but that is not the fault of the person answering the question, so please be courteous. Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Even though the cause for termination had nothing to do with work and was because they do not approve of what happens in my personal life?
Expert:  Tina replied 4 years ago.
Yes, unfortunately they do not even need a reason. The fact that it is a weak and unfair reason does not make it illegal. I'm sorry.

It you could make a case that it is because of your marital status (single), then that would typically violate state law and a charge for discrimination could be filed with the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

Such a reason would also not typically prevent an employee from obtaining unemployment benefits either, so I would apply for benefits.

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