California Employment Law
Have California Employment Law Questions? Ask a Lawyer.
On April 20 2013, a female employee alleged that I harassed her and caused her to fear coming to work. This employee and I were romantically and physically involved (which led to pregnancy and a miscarriage) from March 2004 - October 2004. I stopped seeing her after learning not only that she was married, but, in her words, her husband was no longer able to have children due to a vasectomy. We had not seen or spoken to each other since in nearly nine years.
On April 22 2013 when my manager brought the allegation to my attention, I told her what occurred in the past. She instructed me to document the details of the affair so that she could have the letter placed in my personnel file "for future reference". I complied in addition to stating in my letter that I did not feel comfortable in the work environment and asked to not be placed in any situations where this woman and I would come in contact.
At 5:00pm on May 8 2013, I received a call from the Unit Supervisor instructing me to meet with the Unit Director and head of Personnel at 3:00pm on May 9 2013. At the specified time, I met both individuals in Personnel and was told that the President and CEO (a female) stated that I "made a sexist remark" to her, in an open forum, the day before. They also claimed that I caused another female employee "to feel inferior" when I allegedly questioned "why she was still a Unit Clerk and not a Nurse".
Additionally, I was accused of "defying authority" because I carried an UNOPENED soda to the nursing unit after lunch...THREE WEEKS PRIOR. When confronted by the Unit Director when the incident occurred, I immediately threw the UNOPENED soda in the trash and apologized for the error. She laughed and asked why I would throw away a perfectly good soda.
Finally, I was told that (PRIOR TO BEGINNING MY FIRST DAY ON THE JOB), I "consistently emailed" the Unit Director asking about my schedule. When I asked if an investigation had begun into the female employee (claiming harassment), the personnel director stated, "That's besides the point! You seem to have a problem with females and as such, we cannot have that kind of behavior here."
In closing, I was told "You are an at-will employee." and that no reason was needed into their actions. My harassment/defamation claim was totally dismissed. Their action (or lack thereof), in my belief, was sexual discrimination despite the written evidence I presented clearly showing the female employee's allegation was not truthful.
Before leaving the premises, I was given a copy of the HR policy showing the grievance process which, ironically, I was not availed.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer.
I'm very sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.
What question do you have regarding your situation?
What is my recourse, if any?
Unfortunately, what your employer informed you was correct. Since you are an at-will employee, you can be disciplined and/or terminated at any time for any reason with or without any prior notice. Accordingly, your recourse is very limited in this situation.
This stems from the employment at-will doctrine, which is codified in California Labor Code Section 2922, and states:
"An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated atthe will of either party on notice to the other. Employment for aspecified term means an employment for a period greater than onemonth."
However, if your employer has a grievance process or disciplinary process that it fails to follow, you would have a potential cause of action for breach of contract if you are 'wrongfully' terminated or disciplined.
Also, you have a cause of action against the female employee for lying about the harassment that she allegedly experienced, since this has caused damage to your reputation and has the potential to create serious financial harm if you are disciplined and/or terminated as a result of this false information.
If you do choose to sue for defamation, I suggest you hire an attorney who works on a contingency basis, so you only have to compensate the attorney if you receive a settlement or a verdict in your favor.
I hope the above information is helpful, although I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX had better news to give you.
Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.
If not, please remember to rate my answer positively so I get credit for my work.
Thanks and best of luck!
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).