Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
Are you a member of a union? If you are a member of a union then you may be able to file a grievance through the union if they did not follow proper termination procedures. However, unless you can show that the reason you were targeted for termination was because you were being discriminated against due to your race, gender, age (over 40), disability, religion or sexual orientation then you do not have a case for illegal discrimination even if they did target you and bully you due to your pointing out issues and inefficiencies in the department. Whistleblower protection is also not available -- that is when you find a company or state or federal agency is doing something illegal and you expose the illegal activity to the authorities (such as when an employee of a medical office goes to the feds with charges of medicare fraud in the billing of the medical office).
I truly wish I could give you more hopeful news on this subject but unless you can show illegal discrimination that the law protects (I noted the categories above) then an employer can pretty much get away with terminating a person for any reason or no reason if there are no union protections in place to assist. Please let me know if you have further questions.
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You said nothing about retaliatory practices
Hello again Mary --
Retaliatory practices against an employee are only legally actionable if you have a valid claim for discrimination for these discriminatory practices I outlined above or if you are a recognized whistleblower by a state or federal government law enforcement agency and the company you work for terminates you. In general, retaliatory practices for reporting problems up the chain of command are not legally actionable (although a union may take it up as a valid grievance). Because they have built up a file against you of disciplinary actions they do not see it as retaliatory -- they see it as a legitimate termination whether it really is or not (what matters is what they can prove if you do try to file a complaint against them for termination due to illegal discrimination and they have built up a file to combat against you on any other issue that you may bring up). If you have copies of the memos regarding downsizing you may be able to get unemployment benefits by claiming to the unemployment office that they were going to start laying off people and they used this termination as a poor excuse for a layoff.
Again, I wish I did not have to give you this news but it is the legal truth of the matter. I realize it doesn't make it any easier for you to hear all of this and I am sorry. I have worked for some pretty bad employers in my time and been terminated for much the same reasons and there is nothing that I can say that will make the situation any better or any more legally actionable.
Thanks for giving me other angles. I needed this and I have the document you're talking about, the layoffs
Unemployment may deny your claim at first because they will not have all the facts. However, you can appeal the first denial to an appeals hearing and can present the layoff information then and hopefully it will help to get you the unemployment benefits.
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