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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12467
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I was suspended pending termination on 8/19/2016 for a cash

Customer Question

Hello -
I was suspended pending termination on 8/19/2016 for a cash drawer shortage. I was told this was a write-up and that it would bring me to too many write-ups for the year. I have never had a shortage before in my 3yrs there. The other write-ups were for absences for which I have dr's notes, and one for performance in which a guest of the hotel made a comment on a website about the bar being too busy and the service was bad. She mentioned no names, yet I got written up for it. On 8/25/2016 I went in to HR and was told I was being terminated. I asked to see my personnel file and was told I would have to wait until the director of HR came back from vacation. I went through all the "guarantee of fair treatment" channels that the company has, and each one said "no", that the policy is clear and that they stand by my termination. About 3hrs into this they let me see my personnel file, told me I could make copies of anything w/ my signature on it, but anything else was proprietary company information. I came across a cash short/over policy with my signature on it that very clearly stated that a first offense of a shortage was a verbal warning, not a write-up. I pointed this out to HR and asked for a copy of it, and was told I could not have one. I then came home and called corporate. 2days later (yesterday) I got a call from the director of HR saying that my employment had been reinstated, to come in at 2:30 today and she will go over the details with me and then I can go start the 3:00 shift at the bar. I am concerned that this is not nearly enough time to clear this up and am also concerned that I will be asked to sign papers that I will not have time to read. I truly feel someone made a mistake and they are trying to smooth it out. My real question is this...if I go in today at 2:30 and am handed papers to sign that I am not comfortable signing, am I in the wrong if I decline the 3:00 shift today and take the papers home to review? Especially since I was never really on a schedule. I have been suspended/terminated for 2wks now. What are my rights in this situation?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** it will be my pleasure to assist you. Please just give me a moment to review your question....

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Hello Patrick, are you still there?
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

I am typing a response....

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

The general rule in Florida is 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.

Policies that an employer may implement generally do not change the rule of at will employment. This is to say, even if an employee can prove that they didn't violate a policy, or that the policy required discipline prior to termination, that would not make termination illegal. Courts generally regard employer policies as mere guidelines offered by the employer as a courtesy to give employees a general idea what to expect--nothing more. With rare exception, an employer cannot be sued for violating its own policies.

So, at this point, to be candid, your employer has already done several things that they were not legally required to do. No law in Florida entitles private sector employees to review their personnel file, but your employer did. Likewise, no law would have required your employer to reconsider its decision to terminate, but yours did and has reinstated you. You actually did not have a right to either of these things.

Now, at this point, your employment is likely on somewhat tenuous grounds. So, typically, you will want to cooperate with your employer as much as possible. Again, keep in mind that when it comes to signing policies, writeups, etc. NONE of this generally stops your employer from still terminating you at will. So, it's not as though by not signing you are somehow gaining protection. In fact, not signing may very well result in your termination, and that too would be perfectly legal.

The simplest way to look at it is this: employment is a voluntary relationship between two parties. Either can terminate the relationship at any time for just about any reason. So, your only real job protection is to make your employer want to continue employing you. Certainly, you should not sign something that is untrue or which you strongly disagree with, but keep in mind that by refusing you may be compromising your employer's desire to continue employing you. Ultimately, you and your employer have to reach an understanding as to acceptable terms of employment moving forward.

If I can clarify anything at all for you, please do not hesitate to ask. It is my pleasure to assist you further if necessary....

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Are you still with me? I tried to expedite my answer.....

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Can you please let me know if you received my response to you?

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
I apologize yes i received your response. But it doesn't coincide with other information I've gathered so I'm even more confused. And now have to get to thus meeting w my HR dept
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
My apologies i didn't realize you were waiting for a response from me
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

As an employment attorney who deals with these issues every day, I can assure you that everything about my answer is legally accurate. Was there something in particular that you would like clarification on?

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
May i contact you later as i am driving now
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

Yes, absolutely. I look forward to your reply.

Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 10 months ago.

No problem