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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  16 years practicing attorney
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I am at-will, and my understanding is that I can be fired for

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I am at-will, and my understanding is that I can be fired for any reason, or for no reason at all.

I have been working at a company that has been starting its service department from scratch. I am one of the most knowledgeable technicians in my industry, but the management has something against me, and have routinely excluded me from the development process. The service manager they hired instead has absolutely no knowledge of this industry and has not been getting the development work done (he doesn't even know where to start), and none of the knowledgeable technicians in our group are solving these problems for him.

I have patiently waited until I was able to demonstrate my development skills, and finally, management agreed they need to bring me in to help with development. But, it has taken 4 1/2 months since then, for them to actually offer me a position. Meanwhile, I have been working on development, developing training curriculum, teaching classes, driving process improvement - basically proving that I am the only one that can get this job done.

The offer finally came in, but it seems like the GM has some kind of beef with me. The offer ended up being a very minor title change, with little compensation change. Basically, it was no where near the proper title, compensation, authority and responsibility needed for the scope of the work that was needed to be done - develop an entire training program, fix all the service processes that remain broken, etc., etc.

So, my questions are this:

1) Can I be fired for declining the offer?

2) If I am fired for declining the position, or fired shortly after I decline, for trumped-up reasons, can I sue for wrongful termination?

Keep in mind, we had one new technician that was hired, and he was an absolutely mess up. He could not be taught. He did almost everything wrong. He broke thousands of dollars worth of equipment. There was nothing redeemable about him. And, it took them months to actually let him go. HR had all kinds of requirements that they start with a verbal warning, then a written warning, then a probationary period, then finally termination.

So, if they fire me out of the blue, can I sue?

Thanks!
Hello and thank you for using JA! My goal is to provide you with excellent service and help with your legal problem.
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1) Can I be fired for declining the offer?
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Yes, as you are aware, an "at will" employee can be terminated at any time, with or without a reason. So you can come in wearing a blue shirt today and they can fire you for it and it is entirely legal. In the same respect, you can quit at any time and they can't force you to work for them.
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So if you decide that the position isn't for you, they could terminate.

2) If I am fired for declining the position, or fired shortly after I decline, for trumped-up reasons, can I sue for wrongful termination?
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It is pretty unlikely. To have a wrongful termination case you have to relate your treatment to unlawful discrimination. Absent a written agreement to the contrary, an employee can be treated differently or discriminated against for any reason, as long as the reason is not prohibited by law.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that a person can only be legally considered to have been discriminated against for employment if it is on the basis of race, religion, national origin, physical disability, gender, or age.

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So based on your comments, I don't see any type of illegal discrimination that is going on here.

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I am sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers, even when an answer is not favorable to the customer.

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Thanks.

Barrister

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If you need further help, just reply to me via the “REPLY” button and I will be happy to continue.

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I cannot enter into an attorney client relationship, this is a public forum, and all posts are available for public viewing. There is no duty of confidentiality that attaches to any posts. The information provided is not a substitute for a local attorney’s legal advice.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I do not enjoy that I can only have a case for discrimination "on the basis of race, religion, national origin, physical disability, gender, or age". I know I am being discriminated against. So far, the GM has hired a service manager that knows nothing about this industry and recently a project manager that knows nothing about this industry. Yet, I am routinely shunned. I am not sure what it is, but I don't like it.


 


In any case, thanks for the confirmation of what I feared.

I am sorry that I don't have better news for you. Now if you could tie your treatment to some type of illegal discrimination, then you might have a case for wrongful termination. But you would have to link it to one of the factors I mentioned for it to be actionable.
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Thanks
Barrister
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