So I am looking to possibly take legal action against a former employer of mine that had--in my opinion wrongfully terminated me. I'm wondering if this is possible based on my case. Here is my case:

I worked for an asphalt/grading company from September 2016 to May 2018 (almost two years). During that time under my first boss "John," I had advanced to becoming the lead of my department and I had the highest production rate--this data was tracked on a per-task basis. Come February 2018 the company announced a huge internal fiasco which caused a change in management, my boss "John," quit along with the CEO and a ton of other employees were fired. At this point I got a new boss "Dave," and a new general manager "Joe."

In the near 2 years of my employment I had the highest production rate, fewest errors and I had completed bonus tasks outside my job, on top of which I had no written or verbal warnings during this period. My first boss John had also written me a formal letter of recommendation commending my performance before his resignation.

However come February my new boss Dave had yelled, cursed and scolded me in an open office environment and had said "We don't just hand out raises," as well as called me a "Greedy Fuck," for asking for my performance to be reviewed for a raise. On top of this he admitted to believing an accusation that I was a "Problem Child," told to him by another employee before he had even met me. I had reported these problems to HR officially after they had occurred.

Following this I had several conversations and was being forced to perform various duties for my boss that were outside the skill-set of someone in my position that were previously performed by my previous boss John--not to be confusing, I have these skills, but I declined to do the tasks because my boss did not understand the duties of my position and workload. After this I was out of office one day due to various personal issues and could not call in to work on time--so I called in the same day 1 hour after the start of my shift to say that I would not make it. Then the next day I had filed a complaint with the general manager about the issues I had with Dave and that I needed to speak with him immediately by saying, "I understand, that you have a meeting in 5 minutes, but I need to speak with you immediately." To which he replied, "If you aren't going to respect my time then get the fuck out, get the fuck out!" Again I replied, "Let me finish, I understand you have a meeting, I just needed to tell you I need to speak with you, even if it's after your meeting." After this no meetings, no more problems, silence for weeks and then I was terminated May 14th by the general manager Joe.

The reason for termination by Joe was "Low Performance," "Refusing to schedule a Job to be completed," and "Not calling in sick prior to my shift." I told Joe that none of the reasons for termination were true, to which he replied, "I don't care, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, you're terminated." I left, slammed his door shut out of anger for lying and not listening to me, then calmly collected my things, clocked out my time and left. HR and Joe gave me the contact for an executive George, whom was also terminated the next day May 15th. I've had no contact since.

NOTE: Unfortunately I don't have any proof apart from HR documents in my personal file as well as the companies tracked statistics as well as various testimonies from previous employees and current employees.

  • 1
    "and "Not calling in sick prior to my shift." I told Joe that none of the reasons for termination were true, to which he replied..." But one of those reasons is true according to your statement: After this I was out of office one day due to [..] and could not call in to work on time--so I called in the same day 1 hour after the start of my shift... While you may not agree with it, most right-to-work states that alone is justification enough for termination, depending on what your company policy says. – Ron Beyer Jul 26 '18 at 20:41
  • 1
    You probably understand that the employer might not necessarily be required to take your extenuating circumstances into account. They might be allowed to fire you for not calling in no matter what circumstances prevented you from making the call. – phoog Jul 26 '18 at 21:49
  • 2
    That might change the situation, but it might not. Employers aren't required to treat all employees equally in every respect. They're allowed to discriminate on grounds that are not forbidden. So they could probably choose to retain one employee who failed to call in and fire another one who called in late if the first employee's productivity were better. In at-will employment, they can fire you for no reason at all. They just can't fire you for reasons related to prohibited discrimination (race, age, sex, etc.). – phoog Jul 26 '18 at 22:04
  • 3
    Yes. But the point is that in most cases they don't need any grounds to fire you. You need to look at that first. Did you have an employment agreement? Did it specify that your employment was "at will"? If so, or if there was no written agreement, you can only expect to prevail if you can show that they fired you based on your having some protected characteristic. – phoog Jul 26 '18 at 22:20
  • 2
    Also, to state the obvious, while anyone can sue anybody if they have a couple hundred bucks and a word processor, that doesn't mean that you can win. – ohwilleke Jul 27 '18 at 0:57

Most employment in the US is "at will". That means that the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship without notice for any reason or for no reason.

There are certain statutory protections that limit this, however, such as federal protections against discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic. Arizona may have other protections.

So the first thing you need to do (or your lawyer needs to do) is determine whether your employment was at will. If so, then it doesn't much matter if the reasons they gave you were lies, unless you can show that their actions constituted illegal discrimination. (If they lied about you to someone else, though, you might be able to go after them for libel or slander.)

If your employment was not at will, then you may be able to challenge the reasons for the firing if the firing violated the conditions under which your employment could be terminated.

Even if your employment was at will, your firing might fall under one of the exceptions listed in the Wikipedia article: public policy, implied contract, or good faith/fair dealing (although the article gives conflicting information about whether Arizona has an implied contract exception; the text says that it does not, but the map shows that it does).

To analyze the facts of your case in connection with Arizona employment law, you really need to talk to a lawyer with a practice in Arizona employment law. The lawyer will want to review your contract or other written agreement, if there is one.

  • 1
    The other possible avenue would be to seek unemployment benefits, which if contested by the employer is something that someone representing themselves might be able to handling in an administrative hearing. Unemployment benefits are available unless you quit or were fired for good cause, in most cases. – ohwilleke Jul 27 '18 at 0:56

Regardless of the suggestion (in the comments) to get an employment lawyer, you may want to ascertain independently whether Arizona law requires you to "exhaust administrative remedies" prior to filing a lawsuit.

I have seen multiple cases where plaintiffs' attorney omitted that step, filed the lawsuit straight in court, and the lawsuit got dismissed --with prejudice-- due to the failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The point is that retaining an employment attorney does not guarantee that he or she will be competent.

One starting point is leagle.com, where you can find Arizona case law to get familiarized with how the statutory law and binding precedents are --at least supposedly-- applied.

  • Getting an employment lawyer doesn't equal court case. A decent lawyer will try to go through arbitration or at least draft some documents for the ex-employer prior to going to court. – Ron Beyer Jul 26 '18 at 21:41
  • @RonBeyer But if the lawyer decides that filing a lawsuit is pertinent, then it is in the OP's best interest to ensure that the lawyer will not screw this up by failing to exhaust the administrative remedies. Furthermore, arbitration is not advisable because it is much harder to reverse, even if the evidence clearly supports the OP's position. – Iñaki Viggers Jul 26 '18 at 21:46
  • 2
    @RonBeyer but one point that can be inferred from this answer is that one might get a lawyer who is not decent and therefore files a lawsuit without first exhausting administrative remedies. – phoog Jul 26 '18 at 21:46
  • @RonBeyer Generally, administration exhaustion this applies to discrimination lawsuits, union-management situations, and civil servants (i.e. government employees). Also, no lawyer worth his salt would go to arbitration if he wasn't required to do so by an employment agreement. – ohwilleke Jul 27 '18 at 0:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.