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John, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 3705
Experience:  Exclusively practice labor and employment law.
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I was fired for not reporting hassment to our HR department.

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I was fired for not reporting sexual hassment to our HR department. I was told that one employee had a picture of another one nursing her baby. This picture was taken away from the work place. I talked to them, asking that the drama be left out of the work place. There was no picture as it had been deleted off of the phone. No one saw the picture so I wasn't sure if there even was one. 6 weeks later she reported sexual hassement to HR because she said that I never did anything about it. I have had no training on how to go about reporting sexual hassement, among employee. Both of the employees are still working and I was fired 9-10-13. Thanks for an answer.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  John replied 1 year ago.
Hi, thanks for submitting your question today. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I’m happy to assist you with your question today. I'm sorry to hear about your job loss.

As you have written your question and explained the events, you will likely collect unemployment, but there doesn't appear to be any violation of employment laws. I'll explain further.

Nebraska like most states is an employment at will state - meaning you can be disciplined or terminated for any reason that is not otherwise a violation of law. These exceptions are the civil rights protections (e.g., age, race, sex, religion), violations of public policy (e.g., fired for attending jury duty, for refusing to break the law, for reporting illegal activity by the employer (aka a "whistleblower violation"), or having some contractual right to a just cause employment (meaning the employer cannot terminate you without industrial due process - which basically insures a fair and accurate investigation and decision). Without any of these exceptions, courts find that the employer has a legitimate business right to operate its business however it sees fit and the court will not second-guess the employer. These policies and decisions may in fact be awful and clearly not fair or even make good business sense. However, they are not ultimately unlawful.

In your case your employer clearly failed to relate to you its expectations on reporting what it considers "sexual harassment" and, even if it had told you about these expectations, I'm not personally sure that termination was really necessary in this instance. But, this is their workplace and they are free to develop their policies as they see fit as long as they don't break the law; regardless of whether it seems generally unfair. Thus, unless you believe you were somehow discriminated against because of your gender, which I did not read into your question, I do not foresee how your situation fits into any of the above-mentioned exceptions to employment at will. Your scenario is one of the employer setting an unfair job requirement for you, but I did not read it as being unlawful or in retaliation for some legal right you have expressed. I have no doubt that if you consult local attorney(s) they will confirm the same.

Unemployment is different though. The employer would have to prove your misconduct to disqualify you. They couldn't do that in this scenario because to prove your misconduct they'd have to prove that you knowingly and willfully failed to follow an order or policy. That is not the case here because they didn't give you notice of this requirement to report sexual harassment and the incident for which you were terminated isn't a glaring case that you disobeyed general employer interests. Thus you'll more likely than not get unemployment.

This is a lot of information to digest, so let me know if you have follow-up questions. I believe this answers your question. However, if you need clarification or have follow-up questions regarding this matter, I will be happy to continue our conversation – simply reply to this answer. If you are otherwise satisfied with my response, please leave a positive rating as it is the only way I am able to get credit for my answers. Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX wish you all the best with this matter.

John, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 3705
Experience: Exclusively practice labor and employment law.
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