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EMJ1219, Senior HR Professional
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 10760
Experience:  GPHR Cert SHRM; Military based 20yr exp + 7yr corp HR compliance, COBRA & FMLA certificate
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Is it illegal to fire somebody over the phone and not give

Customer Question

is it illegal to fire somebody over the phone and not give any reason why they are being fired?

Optional Information:
West Springfield , Massachusetts

Already Tried:
Contacting a lawyer.
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  mroberts replied 11 years ago.
How many Employees do you have?

Do you have an employment contract with this person?

Most employement is "at will" and you can let them go for legitimate reasons, but depending on the size of your company there are civil suits that can be brought.

You should always give a legit reason just to be safe to avoid possible legal action.

What is legal is always subjective to the situation.

Letting someone go over the phone is not neccesary wrong.

But if you are letting them go for anything other than lack of work, you should have a file with written warnings you have given them with their signatures on it. You can download employement management forms from Microsoft Word Templates.

When they file Unemployement or answer any greivance you have to give a reason for letting them go.

I am not an attorney and laws in MA may be very different from Oklahoma. However, the generalities of employement safety is pretty much the same.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to mroberts's Post: not the answer I was looking for. I was looking for something from a lawyers point of view.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Relist: I want a different opinion.
Expert:  EMJ1219 replied 11 years ago.

Dear mroberts,

I will try, from a legal perspective. I am not an attorney, however I have a MSA in HR with post graduate studies in Employment Law. I have been applying employment law for more than 30 years in my work with military services, and 6 years of corporate experience post military service.

Regardless if you are in employment rights state or not, the act of firing you over the phone is not in itself illegal. This falls in the category of lacking taste, or being a bad boss. Many legal challenges have been made to firing by phone, third parties, and email. All of them are considered legal.

What is most important, however, is the reason for the firing.

If you were hired "at will", and the conditions of employment with your employer are "at will" then your employer may fire you without a reason.

With at will employment, either you or the employer can terminate the employment relationship without cause or reason, without incurring liabilities of any kind, or without notice.

You should know from when your were hired or employer handbooks if you are at will. The employer had an obligation to inform you of the conditions of your employment, which would have included that you were hired "at will".

Note: Generally, if there is no fixed term for the employment, then it is considered, in most cases "at will". However, this does not take away the employers obligation to inform you of the conditions of employment.

You should check your employee's handbook and the hiring documents you were given, including any contracts you might have signed, and look for the words "at will" employment.

Still, you may have a basis for a civil lawsuit and discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act, or the Fair Labor Standards Act, for "wrongful discharge".

Even though, at will employment allows you to be discharged without cause, it does not mean you could be wrongfully discharged.

Employers cannot use at will employment to discharge an employee for retaliation, whistle blowing, missing work for jury duty, etc.

If you have no documentation that this is at will employment, then you might have a case for wrongful discharge. I see that you have attempted to speak with an attorney. You might find a different attorney, and this time approach them from the perspective, that you would like an initial consultation to discuss if you might have a case for "wrongful discharge". The attorney can come from the yellow pages, or you can find one at one of the following web sites:

Massachusetts state bar:

Find Law

The initial consultation should be free or at a reduced rate. The fee will be worth it, because you will learn a lot in a 30 to 45 minute session.

Make sure you pick an attorney advertising employment law, wrongful discharge, etc.

NOTE: When you apply for unemployment benefits, the state will investigage the reason for the firing. The employer is sent a document to confirm your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Once you start receiving the benefits or benefits are denied, you can ask an unemployment counseler to review your file to find out what the reason for the firing was. If the unemployment office will not allow you to see the file, you can hire the attorney to find out for you. (Attorney's have a right to discovery)

Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Ed Johnson's Post: still want to talk to a lawyer from mass.