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  1. #1

    Default Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: North Carolina

    I was recently terminated for "actions unbecoming of a leader". I was a supervisor in a corporate contact center with over 500 people in my department. I started talking to an employee and it eventually turned sexual, not physically, but through texting. She would send me explicit messages and I would send her some as well. She was not a direct report for me, nor did she report to the same manager that I did. There was never a text or an indication that she wanted to stop or that she was uncomfortable.

    She did stop talking from time to time, but would pick right back up when texting me. She sent me a subjective picture of her in the tub showing only her legs in a sexual manner. She texted me about going to her parents lake house and us being naked and having "fun" together. She recently took this to HR and I was fired. I had to go into a room and have a phone conversation with someone in employee relations in our main corporate office.

    I advised of the entire situation and that I had recently got a new phone so all of the other text message were on my old phone which was sitting on my dresser at home, but that I could get this and bring it in to show the entire string of texts and the context of them. The only response I got from this was "uh huh". Moments later, HR entered the room with my senior member of management and they advised me that I was being terminated for "actions unbecoming of a leader". I have a few questions about this.

    1.) Am i not supposed to be able to provide evidence that this was mutual?

    2.) My department consist of 700 agents, 42 supervisors, 13 managers, and 3 senior level managers. The company policy on fraternization clearly states that it is only a violation if the two parties report to the same manager and we didn't, so how can this be "actions unbecoming of a leader"?

    3.) Will I be entitled to unemployment? If they pushback on my unemployment, would the consensual texts between her and I be enough to overturn their refusal to allow unemployment?

    4.) Do I have any leg to stand on whatsoever with North Carolina being an "at will" state?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    You were a supervisor, so your employer can decide that you acted inappropriately even if your actions were mutually acceptable. Also, the fact that an employee might not want her supervisor to know that his attentions are unwanted doesn't necessarily mean that the employee wants the attention -- the employee may fear retaliation if they complain or don't go along with it. One way or another, from the texts you have told us that the employee took to H.R., there's no reason to suspect that they don't know that she was sending you suggestive texts.

    I doubt that the company's "fraternization" policy applies here, as you were the employee's supervisor. If you believe that it is the only restriction on sexual behavior between employees, and believe that it is in the form of a binding employment contract, and believe that it protects you from termination, discuss the details of the policy with an employment lawyer in your state.

    You can apply for unemployment. I won't speculate as to whether or not you will receive unemployment.

    If you had no contractual job protection, individually or through a collective bargaining agreement, had no civil service protections as a government employee, and concede that you were an at-will employee, then your complaint is effectively that you were unfairly fired. An at-will employee only has recourse for termination if the termination is in violation of law or public policy, and mere unfairness doesn't support any remedy.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    1.) Your employer is not a court of law. They're not required to allow you to provide diddly.

    2.) It is if your employer says it is.

    3a.) Maybe, maybe not. Doesn't hurt to try. The worst that can happen if you're turned down
    3b.) No.

    4.) No.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    Filing for unemployment will provide the only venue where questions will be asked about the should've and shouldn't have's in this case or where they will decide if both you and the employer acted appropriately. In other words, the agency will be trying to determine if you are out of work through no fault of your own, or if you appear to have known that your behavior was inappropriate, likely to get you fired and did it anyway.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    You were a supervisor, so your employer can decide that you acted inappropriately even if your actions were mutually acceptable. Also, the fact that an employee might not want her supervisor to know that his attentions are unwanted doesn't necessarily mean that the employee wants the attention -- the employee may fear retaliation if they complain or don't go along with it. One way or another, from the texts you have told us that the employee took to H.R., there's no reason to suspect that they don't know that she was sending you suggestive texts.

    I doubt that the company's "fraternization" policy applies here, as you were the employee's supervisor. If you believe that it is the only restriction on sexual behavior between employees, and believe that it is in the form of a binding employment contract, and believe that it protects you from termination, discuss the details of the policy with an employment lawyer in your state.

    You can apply for unemployment. I won't speculate as to whether or not you will receive unemployment.

    If you had no contractual job protection, individually or through a collective bargaining agreement, had no civil service protections as a government employee, and concede that you were an at-will employee, then your complaint is effectively that you were unfairly fired. An at-will employee only has recourse for termination if the termination is in violation of law or public policy, and mere unfairness doesn't support any remedy.
    I know this doesn't matter in the long run but he was specific that he was NOT her supervisor and that they did NOT report to the same manager.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    Quote Quoting Soldierguy87
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    3.) Will I be entitled to unemployment? If they pushback on my unemployment, would the consensual texts between her and I be enough to overturn their refusal to allow unemployment?
    Reality check. It was a damned fool thing to do. You have no justification or excuse for it. Don't be surprised if you are denied unemployment compensation due to misconduct.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I know this doesn't matter in the long run but he was specific that he was NOT her supervisor and that they did NOT report to the same manager.
    The post says that he's a supervisor and that they don't have the same manger. But even if I am supposed to guess from that, that he has no supervisory authority over the complaining worker, not even indirect authority, it doesn't change the analysis.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    The post says that he's a supervisor and that they don't have the same manger.
    Well, the post says that “She was not a direct report for me, nor did she report to the same manager that I did.” In the jargon used in at least some corporate circles, the phrase a “direct report” of manager A is short for an employee who directly reports to manager A, i.e. manager A is the direct supervisor of that employee. I think it’s a bit of an odd term, but so is much else in business jargon. So the employee not being a direct report for the OP would mean that the OP was not the direct supervisor of the employee.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    But even if I am supposed to guess from that, that he has no supervisory authority over the complaining worker, not even indirect authority, it doesn't change the analysis.
    Yep, absolutely agree with that. No recourse for the OP against the employer for this absent protection by employment contract, collective bargaining agreement, or civil service rule. The OP risks nothing applying for unemployment but, like you, I’m not going try guessing how likely it is that he will get approved for benefits.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Terminated for Mutual Texting/Sexting With a Co-Worker

    I didn't think that it changed the analysis either in this case, I was just correcting a detail.

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