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ScottyMacEsq
ScottyMacEsq, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 16054
Experience:  Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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I'll try to keep this as brief as possible, but there are a

Customer Question

I'll try to keep this as brief as possible, but there are a lot of aspects to this scenario. My husband and 3 of his colleagues were terminated from a large company. They were terminated after 3 years of exemplary service and no negative reviews or disciplinary action. They had all received raised for their exemplary service and were praised repeatedly over the 3 years. They all worked together at a location in Hawaii, and my husband was the supervisor for the total of 20+ employees. In May/June of 2015, he and 2 of his staff were offered jobs in Georgia within the same company they currently worked for (all wanted to move for the lower cost of living to better support their families). In July our family started the move and my husband's start date was to be mid-August. The other two employees were due to start in October and planned their moves accordingly. Although they were staying with the same company, they were essentially treated as "new hires" because they accepted a change in title and reduced pay. In October, my husband and the 2 other employees who moved across the country were suddenly terminated after what seemed to be a brief investigation. The only reason my husband was given was that he used "poor judgement." This was later clarified to state something about the perception of favoritism. That's all he's ever been told. Whatever the allegation was that was made, he does not know it's content other than that it was apparently made back in JUNE before anyone began moving across the country. And we've since learned that the investigation started in June. He wasn't told about it until October, when he was suddenly asked to be interviewed and then fired less than 2 weeks later. The story is similar for the other 2 that moved to Georgia. Just a few months prior to June, my husband was forced to lay off 2/3 of his staff due to what the company called a reduction in force. He had to rate everyone and then personally inform each of them what HR had instructed him to do. It is unclear whether the person who made the allegations was one of the people he had to let go, but highly likely. So, the questions this raises are: Is there a case for wrongful termination? Should the company have been required to notify him of the pending investigation when it started versus after moving cross country, which they knew was pending? We are working to obtain a copy of the employee handbook as it relates to disciplinary procedures. Is there anything else we should obtain? Again, this is merely a snapshot, so I apologize if there is too much missing info, but I'm happy to answer questions. This whole incident blind-sided a total of 4 families who are now on the verge of bankruptcy after the move. Oh, and it should also be noted that the facility in Georgia where 3 of these people were to be working, has now opted to hire fewer people at a lesser salary instead of replacing everyone, thus saving the company hundreds of thousands of dollars on the program.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for using JustAnswer.

I'm deeply sorry to hear about your situation. First of all, you need to understand that both Hawaii and Georgia are "at will" employment states. At-will employment means that without a contract, you have no contractual or other right to employment with the company. The company is entitled to fire you for any reason: a good reason, a poor reason, or no reason at all--as long as the company does not fire you for an illegal reason (race, gender, age, religion, etc...). But it extends beyond firing, to hiring, promotions, demotions, wage cuts and raises, disciplinary actions, and even scheduling. Unless you can show that this was done in violation of a contract, union agreement, or a clear violation of an unambiguous and binding clause against the employer, or that it was done because of some minority status (age, race, gender, religion, disability) that you have, then they do have this discretion.

So in short, it does not appear that there is a case for wrongful termination, and there was no obligation to inform him of the pending investigation. Yes, you should acquire the handbook to see if there were any internal disciplinary procedures that were not handled, but even then only if you could show that there was a guarantee that said procedures would be followed and that IF followed, they would have necessarily resulted in a different outcome would you have any chance of success under a "quasi contract" theory in court. Otherwise (and I'm very sorry to say this) you wouldn't have a case.

I know this is probably not what you wanted to hear, but it is the law. I hope that clears things up anyway. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it positively (good or better). Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any other questions before you rate this answer?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply. While I completely understand what "at will" employment is and its ramifications, I have to follow up regarding alternative responses below as I believe Georgia is one of the states covered by the first statement. I understand there would be a significant burden of proof, but would appreciate thoughts based on the below. Thank you."Some states will permit an "at will" employee to bring a lawsuit on the basis that the employer violated an implied covenant of "good faith and fair dealing" in association with the termination decision. In such states, even with an at-will employee, the employer must extend some degree of fairness in the decision to terminate employment.""Even employees who do not have written contracts of employment may be able to bring actions based upon the content of employee handbooks or manuals. Where a company document of that nature outlines a disciplinary process that must precede termination, the failure to follow that process may support a wrongful termination suit."
Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

I assume you got that statement from expertlaw.com. It's a generally applicable statement. It says "some states" but doesn't talk about which states. Only eleven US states have recognized a breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as an exception to at-will employment. The states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Unfortunately Hawaii and Georgia (as well as 37 other states) are not in this list that recognize this exception.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any other questions before you rate this answer?

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

If there's nothing else, please rate this answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better) AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. If you feel that I have gone above and beyond in this answer (my average answer is about 10 minutes) bonuses are greatly appreciated. Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!

▼ RATING REQUIRED! ▼ Please don't forget to Rate my service as OK Service or higher. It's only then I am credited.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Are you there? Please note that I am still here, awaiting your response or rating... (please note that rating closes this question out, so if there's nothing else, please rate it so that I can assist other customers that are waiting for answers to their questions)

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Hello?

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Should I continue to await your response, or may I assist the other customers that are waiting?

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

My apologies, but I must assist the other customers that are waiting. If there's nothing else, please rate this answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time (> 1 HOUR) and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it 3 or more stars (good or better) AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. If you feel that I have gone above and beyond in this answer (my average answer is about 10 minutes) bonuses are greatly appreciated. Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!

▼ RATING REQUIRED! ▼ Please don't forget to Rate my service positively. It's only after you rate that I am credited.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Was there anything else?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sorry, I had a minor emergency and had to step away. I have no further questions. Thank you.
Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Okay. If there's nothing else, please rate this answer (on your screen, as I cannot process any rating for you). Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better) AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. If you feel that I have gone above and beyond in this answer (my average answer is about 10 minutes) bonuses are greatly appreciated. Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!

▼ RATING REQUIRED! ▼ Please don't forget to Rate my service as OK Service or higher. It's only then I am credited.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

I see that you have not responded in some time. Please note that this question is still open until you rate it. I believe that I have answered your question, but if you have any other questions, please let me know.If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, ***** ***** good luck to you!

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Hello? Again, please note that this answer remains open until you rate it on your screen. If there's nothing else, please do so so that it will close out the question and give me credit for the time (> 1 hour) that I have spent on it with you.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any other questions before you rate this answer? If not, please rate so that I get credit for the time and effort spent on your question. Thank you.

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

I see that you have not responded in some time. Please note that this question is still open until you rate it. I believe that I have answered your question, but if you have any other questions, please let me know.If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, ***** ***** good luck to you!

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Did you have any other questions before you rate this answer?

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

I see you have not responded in some time. Did you wish to continue with this question?

Expert:  ScottyMacEsq replied 1 year ago.

Hello?

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