Fired with no reason and given negative employment reference.

My husband was a maintenance person for a large rental property. About a month ago, out of the blue, he was called to the rental office, where he was greeted by an attorney and given a "Notice of Termination", all while the Property Manager, who had hired him, watched.

The only reason stated on the notice for the termination was "At will", and because there had never been any indication of dissatisfaction with his work performance and he had never received a reprimand of any kind, my husband asked the manager for an explanation. In response he was told, by the attorney, that they were not required to give him a reason.

Shortly after his termination we became aware of a letter that had been sent to the owner of the property.
The letter is from a group of tenants and cites numerous complaints they have regarding the Property Manager, while at the same time praising my husband for the quality of his work and dedication to the property. We now believe this to be the reason he was terminated.

In addition, there is currently a case pending with the Labor Commission because my husband was not issued his final pay when he was terminated, and the check he did receive 2 weeks later did not include payment for accrued vacation or over-time owed.

To make matters worse, it appears that the property manager has givin my husband a negative employment reference which is making it impossible for him to find another job.

What can we do?

Please help, we feel like we are living in a nightmare.

1 answer  |  asked Nov 1, 2003 1:15 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Richard J. Vaznaugh
wages, retaliation, defamation

The easiest answer is what you already know -- every California employee is entitled to immediate and complete payment at the time of termination of all wages due, including vacation and overtime. When you recover you should also collect a penalty equal to 30 days of wages.

As to the termination issues, most employees can be fired legally for any or no reason. There are important exceptions such as for discrimination, retaliation and whistleblowing -- such terminations are illegal. It is unclear why the employer would fire your husband for this letter. If the employer concluded that your husband was responsible for the problems cited in the letter (even if the tenants attribute them to the prop. manager) probably not illegal. If your husband complained of illegality and the employer retaliated then may be illegal depending on what legal violations were complained.

Finally, the negative employment reference may be illegal if it is false. A truthful but negative reference is not illegal. So, you need more information on what was said and to whom. There is a service at www.badreferences.com that will give you a reference report for a fee. I have not used them but you may find this is helpful.

Sincerely, Richard J. Vaznaugh, Esq. 415-593-0076

posted by Richard J. Vaznaugh  |  Nov 3, 2003 1:52 PM [EST]

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