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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 18788
Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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I have recently been fired from my job. I feel like it is retaliation

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I have recently been fired from my job. I feel like it is retaliation for a hot line call. I know Alabama is an at-will state but I have been offered a severance pay and I need to know if I accept the severance does it prevent me from getting to the bottom of why I was fired.
Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I look forward to assisting you today. I bring nearly 20 years of experience in various legal disciplines.

If you accept the severance and the severance has a release of claims in it, then yes the severance would keep you from bringing any sort of claim based on your termination.

So, you have to ask if your complaint to the hot line was one that would allow for a larger claim of retaliation. Now, there are many forms of retaliation, but very few of them are actually illegal for purposes of employment law.

If your complaint to the hot line involved discrimination against you based on your race, religion, gender, age, disability or FMLA use, then you would have a clear and statutorily based claim of retaliation with the EEOC (or Department of Labor for FMLA). That could prove more valuable than the severance.

If your complaint to the hot line did not involve one of those forms of discrimination, then it was a complaint that was protected by statute. Instead, the only protection from retaliation you would have would be the wording of the company policy on the use of their hot line. Such claims are very difficult to establish and rarely are financially valuable, which is why most attorneys refuse to bring them, or if they do, they want to be paid by the hour rather than accepting a contingency fee arrangement (where they only get paid based on what they win).
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Is it legal to be terminated for an alleged incident that happened 3 years prior to dismissal. The dismissal happen 2 months after the hotline call.
When you don't have an employment contract stating that you can only be terminated for cause, you're an "at will" employee (as you already alluded to in your first question).

It's legal to terminate an at will employee for almost any reason. Using a basis from three years ago isn't illegal, in an "at will" situation. The basis for termination doesn't even have to be good. I have seen people terminated based on liking the color blue just a little too much. I am not kidding here. That's a stupid, petty and truly horrible reason to terminate someone, but in an "at will" situation, that's not illegal.

So no, it isn't illegal to terminate someone for something that happened 3 years ago or even 30 years ago. Of course, that wouldn't be a legitimate basis to try and block the person's unemployment. You have to have a legal basis to do that, but the termination itself is legal unless based on race, religion, gender, age, disability or FMLA use discrimination.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
This is a large company and procedures are followed for employees but I was in supervision and I don't know if ther is rules or not. How do I find out. I was fired for alledegly giving someone in another dept instructions to go against procedure. She was under another supervisor and area manager. What she said I told her to do had been being done for a long time before this incident.
You can certainly ask them what their procedures are for termination, but they aren't likely to give them to you and nothing in law requires them to disclose it based on your request.

So, what you'd have to do is give up your severance, because you can't sue if you accept that. Then you'd have to hire a local attorney to send a demand letter, alleging that they violated their own company policy in your termination (without ever seeing the policy) which is perhaps a violation of an implied contract (the policy). The company might then send their policy in response to try and prove that they didn't violate the policy or they might simply ignore the demand.

Then the attorney would have to draft a complaint, again without the company policy, based on "information and belief" that the policy has been violated and, during the discovery phase, the attorney can demand a copy of the policy to review. Only then can the attorney force the company to give the policy.

So, you'd essentially have to give up the severance and spend money (on an hourly rate) to even find out of the company policy is sufficiently worded to act as an implied contract that could be used as a basis to sue for breach of an implied policy.

This is why so few attorneys take these sorts of claims. They are very speculative, very expensive and typically result in a large bill to their client, without any positive resolution.

On the facts you've outlined here, without a contract of employment and discrimination to point to, I would advise taking the severance. It's what I'd advise a client in my own practice, on these facts, and I do sue employers for a living. Unfortunately, while you are certainly describing a number of unfair acts by the employer, you've not yet identified any illegal action to suggestion that you have any sort of claim worth forgoing your severance in order to preserve.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I have lost a great deal over this act. It's hard to just walk away after 16 years when I had to start on bottom and climb. Insurance, bonus for the year 2013 which is almost fulfilled since this is Sept and several other perks. I can cause a lot of stink with the things I know about the company but I don't know if that is right either. I just don't think the 16 weeks separation pay. How long if I peruse this does it usually take and can a person negotiate a separation pay?
For you to complete a lawsuit, it could take two years and the end result could be nothing. Again, you've not stated any facts to this point that suggests to me that you have any sort of claim at all. You could, depending greatly on the exact wording of their company policy, but as I've said before that is very speculative.

I just can't, in good conscience, recommend to you refusing severance on the facts you've given here. If you had outlined some fact suggesting a true legal claim, I'd be the first to back you up here, considering my job is suing employers.

But I also have an obligation to be truthful with people, even when that news may be bad and on these facts, I just don't see any practical claim that you'd have available.

Yes, you can always attempt to negotiate severance, but I'm forced to make the same argument concerning that as I do concerning a lawsuit. Severance is not legally required in any state, so the employer essentially gives it for their own purposes. To negotiate severance, an employee needs a legitimate bargaining chip to threaten the employer with, and you've not indicated any to this point. In my opinion, your attempts to negotiate, without any cards in your hand, could result in your losing the severance they have offered.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
This was a lengthy investigation and I'm sure they crossed there t,s and dotted there I,s before they made this decision. Although many was involved I guess I was the fall guy: I do have access to critical paperwork that could bring a lot of further investigations but then I would be retaliating! Guess its best that I suck it up and back up and punt. Sometimes life dont seem fair. I appreciate ur honesty in this matter and I know deep down that Vengence belongs to one a lot bigger than me! God Bless U And Yours,
I'll agree with you that life often isn't fair and certainly not all rights are wronged in this world.

I honestly do wish that I could tell you differently here, but I have your best interests at heart and 16 weeks of severance is actually quite a large settlement to give up in return for so speculative a claim.

Good luck going forward.
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