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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    4

    Default Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

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

    Hello,

    I'm doing some research as to figure out if I have a case against a former employer; to which I'm currently seeking reinstatement. Basically, I was accidentally terminated, due to what seems to be a miscommunication between departments. I attempted to fix the problem with HR on what turned out to be my last day, but I was told by the HR person that (while the situation seemed odd/wrong/in error as they had no record or reason that it was my last day), they didn't have the ability to fix the problem at the current time and had to execute the manager's request, and nobody else was in the office that could deal with the issue; the process had to be executed that day.

    I then started calling the employer after the “termination” to work out the problem (I couldn't just walk into the building at that point), to which I was told that due to the HR procedures in place, they would have to go through the “normal hiring” process to get me back on the books; even if the action was in error. Normally the hiring process takes 8 months to a year, but they said they could probably do it in 4 to 6 weeks. Shortly thereafter, I was informed that a hiring freeze was put into place company wide, and that while they would like to “re-hire” me, they were unable to due to the freeze. I attempted to point out that they weren't really re-hiring me, since the termination was accidental, but they said there hands were tied due to the hiring freeze.

    Months passed, and other departments in the company started interviewing again. I've used every vacation day at my current temporary job to interview at these other divisions, but it's a lengthy hiring process (3 to 6 days off from work per job position due to the battery of interviews, plus the aforementioned process time) and I'm worried that if I try to work my way back into my career via the normal hiring process, any sort of legal leverage that I have could expire due to the time.

    Does one have any recourse when a employer terminates an employee in error and doesn't fix the problem? The other odd fact is that just two weeks earlier, I had a series of dialogs with the manager I worked for; where I was informed that I had been being underpaid due to a misclassification of my position in the company. Basically, I was told that on file, I was working for a different manager, with a different job title, and working at a lower pay-rate. He offered to fix the problem, I agreed, and then the next thing I know I'm being escorted down to HR a few days later to have an exit interview.

    Does this sound like I have any legal recourse to get reinstated, or would this fall under “at-will” termination?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Accidentally Terminated. Legal Recourse

    Unless you have a valid and supportable reason to believe that your "accidental" termination not only was not accidental, but was for a reason that is prohibited by law, they have no legal obligation to rehire you, particularly not during a hiring freeze.

    Just how does a company accidentally terminate someone, anyway?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Accidentally Terminated. Legal Recourse

    The best reason I can come up with as per why it wouldn't have been an "accident", is that they may not have wanted to pay me at the pay-rate that corresponds to the job as I was performing. (As I had mentioned, I was being paid less than I should have been due to some sort of HR error that "slipped through the cracks"). I'm not sure if that's prohibited by law however.

    Of course, termination without notice does run against the procedures outlined in the employee handbook. Don't they legally have to play by their own employee handbook rules?

    As per your question "how does a company accidentally terminate someone", in this case (they indicated/claimed) that there was some sort of mix up, and they thought I had resigned. Even though I hadn't, the HR rep (who was new to the organization) specifically did not know what to do as I hadn't resigned, they received no prior notice of said action, and no one of any authority was left in the office. The whole thing sort of went down after hours; I was surprised when I was working late on a project that was due at the end of the week and found myself being escorted down to the HR office. I asked the HR rep to wait until tomorrow so that we could sort the whole thing out, but they indicated they had to out-process me that day due to policy. The next day when I called to straighten out the mistake, I was told that they just couldn't roll back their error, but would have to start the hiring process again. Personally, I think that HR could have rolled back the system, but they didn't want to, so they could cover up the mistake as to not look bad. It's not really a re-hire per say, they just need to undo their incorrect action.

    I was just provided with contact information for the senior vice president of the division I worked in. If I don't have any potential recourse via the law, I'm wonder if I should provide him with the story, and see if he can fix the problem.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

    That's probably your best bet. The reason you suggest is not a prohibited one; nor is failure to abide by their own policies illegal unless the policy is written in such a way as to be contractual.

    One question; was this a public employer (part or all of your salary paid by taxpayer dollars) or a private one (none of your salary paid by taxpayer dollars)?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

    I'll have to go back and check the employee handbook to see how their policies are presented.

    Do you (or anyone else), have any additional ideas as to how to proceed? As stated, I'm considering escalating the situation to the senior vice president; although I am a little worried that without any laws or binding corporate policy to address the situation; it would only do more harm than good when it comes to my chances of being hired in a different division (with different HR, different management, etc). Then again, I guess it doesn't hurt to try.

    Any other ideas, thoughts, feedback are welcome. I've been searching the Internet for situations and cases similar to this, but have not found anything. Try using Google to lookup "Accidental Employment Termination":, and see how many results your can find.

    And to address your question, it's a private employer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    California
    Posts
    666

    Default Re: Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

    This sounds like a massive miscommunication, but I'm not so sure it is what you think it is. Empolyees that a company wants to keep don't get "accidentally terminated" with no one internal to the company being able to figure out how to fix the problem.

    It sounds like you were terminated intentionally for some reason. Either they haven't told you what the reason was, or you weren't understanding what they were saying. You do seem to have your own way of looking at things, so the latter is possible.

    At any rate, to re-employ someone that a manager wants to hire, does not take months. It would appear that they do not want you working there. You can research policies and raise it as high in the company as you wish, but I don't think it is going to get you your job back. Best for you is probably to concentrate your job search to other companies - and carefully evaluate for yourself what you might have done to cause them to act that way. If you can determine a behavior that you exhibited that may have offended them, avoiding it in the future may help you.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

    Good news, at least some progress is being made. I just got an email out of the blue indicating that HR is still working on the problem, their hiring freeze is almost over; they apologized for the delay.

    Hiring (and re-hiring) at the organization in question usually takes over a year from start to finish; and that's without a hiring freeze being in effect. From what I've observed, no matter how hard a manager can push, HR will fight back to drag out the process. I've seen this many times as I've been involved in helping management with the interviewing and hiring process in the past. Unfortunately, this kind of timeline is not uncommon in the industry in question.

    Scott67: Thanks for the advice, but it was not relevant in this case. Unfortunately, random things happen for no reason. No need for unnecessary self introspection.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    California
    Posts
    666

    Default Re: Legal Recourse After Being Accidentally Terminated

    Obviously, a very different organization from any I have ever seen. I guess I should have asked questions about the type of organization, industry, etc. But, no matter about that. If it is now moving your way, I'm happy to hear that.

    Good luck.

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