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Ask Law Educator, Esq. Your Own Question
Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 110573
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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My employer has suspended me (since last Wednesday

Customer Question

My employer has suspended me (since last Wednesday afternoon) for an alleged violation of a retaliation policy in the employee handbook. When I looked in the handbook at home later that evening, there is nothing at all in the section on retaliation that states what I did was even remotely close to retaliation.
Their policy on retaliation states that, in the event of harassment (sexual or physical) and discrimination, if a co-worker (or customer) files a complaint, the the person who the complaint is made against is not to retaliate at all against the complaint.
My situation was, in the pharmacy where I work as a pharmacist, I was informed of an "alleged" complaint a patient made that I did not do something she asked me to do. When I checked my notes in her patient profile, I saw that I did indeed send the request to her doctor (as she asked) for her medication refills. I would like to add that this patient is generally cordial and friendly towards me.
The next week, the patient came in when I was working, and as she was customarily cordial and friendly to me, I said the following (sic):
"TF, I heard there was an issue with a request that you made to me last week. It appears that you thought I didn't do something you asked me to, I thought I did (it), but if there was a misunderstanding and I didn't (do it), I apologize."
The patient gladly accepted my apology, and even said she couldn't believe her comments got escalated to a written complaint.
So my question is, is this attempt to clarify a misunderstanding and apologize to valued patient still considered retaliation, even though the employee handbook does not address this specific issue at all?
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 3 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
How is what you described considered retaliation or even harassment? If that is what you did, then you did not violate any rules and as such, you need to consider filing for unemployment (since you have been temporarily unemployed through no fault of your own without any good cause). By filing for unemployment, you force the employer to object and then produce actual evidence as to how what you said above is retaliation for anything at all (it is not retaliation by any legal standard or legal definition for certain). If that is their claim, then unemployment will rule in your favor and award you benefits for them suspending you without good cause.
Unfortunately, an employer does have a right to suspend or terminate an employee for any reason as an at will employee, but if unemployment rules in your favor as they should then you can pursue your employer's internal grievance process to get reimbursed for the time you should not have been suspended for conduct that does not fit any definition of retaliation or harassment.
Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Thank you. Last I heard, this is still under investigation. When I try to clarify with anyone as to why I am being suspended for something that is clearly not a violation of their retaliation policy as written in the handbook, the response I get is "well, you're suspended, and are until further investigation". That's like saying "why have I been arrested and put in jail for committing no crime" and the response is "well, you're in jail until we decide what you've done!".
I have no idea how long this suspension is for, no one has gotten back to me since Friday, should I file for unemployment now? What about any legal recourse of action?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 3 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Even though they are still investigating, if you are not being paid on suspension, then you need to file for unemployment and force them to produce their evidence in an unemployment hearing to a hearing officer.
As far as legal action against them, I am afraid that if you are an at will employee, your only recourse would be seeking reimbursement for money they did not pay you if you prove you did not commit any violation. If they find you committed no violation and refuse to pay you for the suspension time, then you can sue them for the money for the suspension without cause.