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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 11896
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I have reason to believe that I am going to be terminated

Customer Question

I have reason to believe that I am going to be terminated from my position of 23 years unjust. I beleive that I definately will have a case against my employer.
I have two immediate questions:
1). My doctor has taken me off on medical leave short term and I beleive that he wants to extend it. Would this hurt any case that I may have against the company?
2). When this does happen. Should I sign the paperwork that is given to me and does taking a severance package rule out any legal action that I may have been able to take against my employer.
Are there any suggestions that you could give me?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome. I am very sorry that you believe you will be let go. Why do you believe you are going to be let go, and why do you believe that you have a case against your employer?
Also, can you please tell me how long you have been on short term leave and how long you plan to remain off work? Lastly, can you please tell me if your employer has more than 50 employees?
I very much look forward to helping you on this matter.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We have newer upper management in place and they have let go several management pisitions where people have been there for a while. He is bringing in new people, some of whom he's worked with in the past.
A long time co-worker that works in the executive staff has seen emails and overheard conversations about my up-coming termination. She's done this at the risk of her own job so I am very dedicated to protecting her at all cost.
She also said that our HR department and our company attorney have told him this was a bad move, but I guess he doesn't care.
I've been off work since last Wednesday. I am not certain how much more time the dr will want me to take. I have an appointment today at 3:30 and that's why I needed this question answered.Yes, the company has about 700 employees.Thank you!
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply.
I must be candid in telling you that the facts you describe would not typically give rise to any legal causes of action against your employer. The reason is because employment in all states but Montana is "at will" absent an express agreement to the contrary. At will employment can be terminated for any reason not amounting to discrimination on the basis of a legally protected trait (race, religion, gender, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in certain forms of legally protected conduct (filing a wage claim, taking FMLA leave, etc.). It doesn't matter whether the basis for termination is fair, reasonable or even true.
Thus, it is not illegal to terminate your employment because new management wants to replace you with someone they already know. It's a purely political and unfair decision, but for the reasons noted above it is not illegal to make decisions based on company politics even if such decisions are unfair. It also would not matter from a legal standpoint how long you have been employed. Certainly it matters from the standpoint of "what's right" as you are a long term dedicated employee and should not be replaced as though you are a cog in the wheel, but again, it is not illegal.
It also would not be illegal to terminate you while you are on disbility leave. It might be illegal if you could prove that you were terminated BECAUSE you are on disability leave, but it wouldn't seem that you could prove that here since there is evidence that your termination was already in the works before you ever went on leave. Obviously, your employer's motivation for letting you go couldn't be your medical status if they made the decision to let you go before they were aware of your medical status.
Now, as to your specific questions, being on leave would not hurt an employee's legal claims against the company, but this question assumes there is a legal claim to begin with, and that would not seem to be the case based on what you have described.
As for your second question, you are never under any obligation to sign paperwork just because it has been given to you by your employer. Anything that you are asked to sign should be carefully reviewed and signed knowing that it is a voluntary choice to sign that you are making.
It may be, given your long duration of employment, that you are offered a severance package. It is a near certainty that if you are offered severance it will be conditioned on you signing a waiver of your legal right to sue. This is common and the main reason why employers offer severance. The employee may not have a legal claim, but obtaining the waiver provides closure for the employer and ensures that they will not have to defend against a lawsuit, meritorious or not.
Typically, whether to sign a severance agreement or not depends on the value of the legal claims that the employee is giving up. Here, for the reasons noted above, it would seem that there are probably no legal claims to bring, and thus any amount of severance is probably better than the alternative, which is a losing lawsuit. However, you can still try to negotiate. A standard method for calculating severance is 1 week for every year of service. Perhaps that can be your benchmark.
I hope that you find this information helpful and am genuinely sorry if it is not entirely what you were hoping to hear. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.
If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do have another question in reference to the Above.
I would not even have a case If they let me go for a reason that was not true and I could prove it wasn't accurate. Or, that also goes back to the "at will"?Thank you!
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, this goes back to employment being "at will." Since your employer doesn't even need a reason to let you go, the law does not require them to state a true reason if they state a reason at all. What you would need in order to have a claim is proof that the reason you were being let go was a legally protected trait or activity, as defined above. The burden to prove that would fall on you as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against your employer, so you really need affirmative evidence to that effect.

I hope this clarifies things. Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns.