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Patrick, Esq.
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Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I own a business in an at will employment state. I had an

Customer Question

I own a business in an at will employment state. I had an employee that I had to discuss two serious matters with. During the conversation, I believe he realized how serious the matters were going to be and immediately resigned. I believe he now might attempt to say I coerced him. I am trying to find out where I stand legally should he attempt an legal action.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.

As you may already know, if you are in a state that follows the doctrine of "at will" employment (as all states do but Montana) then you can terminate an employee 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.

Since you can terminate with such impunity, it really doesn't matter whether the employee claims they were fired even if they resign. Being fired on its own won't mean they have any sort of legal claim. They would need to prove that your MOTIVATION for firing them was a legally protected trait or activity. As you indicate that you had to discuss serious matters with the employee, I am guessing you would be able to point to those reasons as the basis for this employee's "termination" even if they could somehow establish that they were fired. That right there is enough to defeat any lawsuit.

The distinction between resignation and termination most likely only matters with respect to the employee's right to collect unemployment benefits. UI benefit eligibility is judged by a different standard--whether the claimant is unemployed through no fault of their own. A claimant who quits their employment will usually be denied benefits since they made the voluntary decision to become unemployed and are thus unemployed "through fault" of their own. However, a claimant who is fired will be eligible for benefits unless the employer can establish that they terminated the employee for "misconduct," defined as conduct evidencing an intentional or reckless disregard for the interests of the employer.

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.

* Disclaimer *

Just Answer is a venue for informational and educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is formed by these communications.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello again,

I just wanted to followup with you to make sure that you did not have any further questions or concerns. For some unknown reason, the experts are not always getting replies or ratings (which is how we get credit for our work) that the customer thinks have gone through. In your case I have not yet received either. If you are having technical difficulties with reading, replying or rating, please let me know so that I can inform the site administrator.

In any event, it was a pleasure assisting you and I would be glad to attempt to assist you further on this issue, or a new legal issue, if needed.

Very best wishes.

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