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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12608
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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Last Friday I was “not fired”. I am a clinic director at an

Customer Question

Last Friday I was “not fired”. I am a clinic director at an affluent retirement community in Montecito. My hire date was January 5, 2015. I have had many achievements in this last year, and I have recently had my annual review where I received and overall rating of “Outstanding: Meets Casa Dorinda’s high standards”.With this background you can imagine my surprise when I was called into my bosses office and told that I needed to come up with some way to make a graceful exit, because we have to go our separate ways in about two-three weeks. Reason was that the residents “have problems with your nursing competence”. When I asked for a specific example of a problem with my nursing competence, I was told that it was just “in general” and “nothing specific”. When I pressed she said “you don’t want to go there, they said that your not trustworthy, and things like that”. She said “you want to make sure this transition goes smoothly because this is a small town and I would hate to see your reputation damaged if people talk”. She stated three times during the conversation that I was “not fired”. She said that this breaks her heart because she really likes me as a person and really respects my expertise as a nurse. She said that she struggled with this decision for the last week and met with Jerome the HR director, and Robin the finance director and acting CEO (currently in the middle of a CEO search). She said the three of them discussed this and decided that this was the only way, because this negative talk among the residents “has left the station” and they “cannot reel it in”. She stated that “this is bigger than you, this is bigger then all of us”. She stated that she has seen this kind of negative talk take over the campus before and there is no stopping it…this has to be the solution as unfair as it is. She stated that I did not deserve this. Her voice was shaking during most of this conversation, and she is not a lady that shakes easily. She promised to give me an excellent reference, and stated that she would say whatever I wanted her to say. I told her to speak from the heart and tell the truth—that always works for me. I also spoke with Jerome, the HR director who stated similar things and also offered to give me a positive reference and “link up” with me on LinkedIn.I am interested in hiring a lawyer to help negotiate an employment separation agreement. I would like to know if my rights have been violated. I would like to explore whether it would be prudent to take some action to protect my reputation. Nothing was presented in writing, nor did I have the presence of mind to ask for something in writing. I do not know what this is, I have not quit, nor have I been fired. I have been “not fired”. I also did not have the presence of mind to ask for a severance package, nor did they offer one.I have kept a work journal that I have kept up since my hire date, and can send it electronically. Can you help me?
JA: OK. The Employment Lawyer will need to help you with this. Have you consulted a lawyer yet?
Customer: no
JA: Please tell me your email address, in case we get disconnected.
JA: Thanks. Are you ready to speak with the Employment Lawyer now?
Customer: yes
JA: I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Employment Lawyer about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Good evening and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. I am very sorry to hear about your employer's decision to let you go.

Unfortunately, I must tell you that the facts you describe would not typically give rise to any legal claims. The reason boils down to the fact that employment 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, you can be terminated despite a great review, despite the lack of warnings, and despite any complaints about your competency being completely without merit. Employment is essentially a voluntary relationship that can be terminated by either party at any time.

As for severance, your employer has no legal obligation to pay anything beyond your actual earned wages. You can certainly try to negotiate severance pay, but an employee's main leverage in negotiating severance is the threat of a lawsuit, and based on these facts, your employer doesn't really have any legal exposure. So, you just don't have much leverage. Also, by pushing too hard to risk burning bridges, which your employer is apparently quite willing to extend to you right now. So, I would really be careful in pushing too hard for severance, and in general it would be a poor idea to get a lawyer involved as the lawyer won't be able to do much for you and will most likely just create animosity between you and your employer.

I realize that this is not what you were hoping to hear, and I am truly sorry that the law does not provide more protection. But you deserve and honest and direct answer to your question, which is what I am trying to provide.

I hope that you find this information helpful. 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.

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