I went into work on Tuesday, a normal work day. The GM asked me to his office sat me down with the president of the board and said another employee said that I said he and another were stealing from the company. I said absolutely not, I didn't say that. t

When in to work today, 04/26/20016, just a regular business day. Was called by my G.M. to come to his office. When I went into his office the president of the board was there (normal, today is payday and he signs check w/ G.M.) I was told to sit down and close the door, I did. Rod (G.M.) said that he would like to discuss something with me, I said ok. He had let me know that another employee said, that I said, he and his ex-wife (Carol, I.T. manager) were stealing from the company. My response to Rod was, absolutely not! Rod then said, Well I have no reason not to believe this employee and you are fired! I ask the president of the board (Dick Gerhart) that this is a serious accusation against me and if the employee can be called or present in this meeting and he just stared at me. I asked Rod if the employee can be present and he said no, don't have to. Rod also spoke about/brought up, a reference a couple of months ago about me putting on lights at my front desk and how he never called me a nigger, and what he said was, what are you from the hood? And how he doesn’t want the front desk looking like the ghetto, but made a point and wanted to say this in front of the president of the board (Dick Gerhart). Rod asked for my keys and to collect all my things out of my office. Rod followed me into my office and closed my door and told me (just him and I) who the employee was and that they might not have a job next week either. I let him know that this is wrong and I never said that and where is the proof? Rod said he didn't need proof. I told him that someone saying something like that is immediate termination? He said yes. I asked him about the comment he made while in the office in front of Dick about my lights and, looked him in his eyes and said you called me a nigger and you know it’s true, and how I am the type of person that shakes it off and goes back to work. He said, I know. So why am I being fired? He said because I apparently said him and Carol were stealing from the company and the decision has been made. I let him know that for the past three years I dealt with his verbal abuse, getting shut down with ideas I brought to him that he now uses and claims it was his idea, name calling, and never said anything but did my job every day. Rod said no he didn't ever do those things and good luck proving it because it’s his word against mine. I said exactly Rod, and you are firing me over someone's word that is not true. I told Rod that he is threatened by me taking his job because I asked him questions about his position and the responsibilities as he made me get a CAM license. He has been retiring for the last 8yrs; he is 72-74yrs old and forgets things all the time. When I was hired in May 2014 I was told that after 90days my salary would be $950wk. and when I approached him after the 90days he said he never said that. Even another board member (Bill Batson) said my salary was to low and told Rod and Rod said he will look over it and nothing was done. And also Rod told me he didn't like me playing golf with another board member (Bill Batson). I have never been fired before in my life, I take my job very serious in supporting my three kids and my wife and now he took it away from me. 40yrs of hard work to get where I'm at and now gone to favoritism or something. I know something is not right but I don't know because I have never been down this road. Please help and let me know my options. Thank you!

1 answer  |  asked Apr 29, 2016 10:02 AM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Phyllis Towzey
Sorry to hear this happened to you. The issue is what is the real reason you were fired. If the company did in fact fire you because your boss believed that you told others he and his wife were stealing from the company, then under Florida law the company can fire you regardless of whether the accusation is true, because Florida is an "employment at will" state. That means you can by fired at any time for any reason or for no reason at all.

The exception to that is that you can not be fired in violation of one of the federal and state discrimination laws, or in retaliation for being a "whistleblower" who objected to an illegal practice. (Whistleblower does not seem to apply here because you indicated you did not make the theft allegation - another employee did and wrongly attributed it to you). You mentioned in the email that Rod has made a nasty racial comment to you at least once in the past. However, for that to form the basis for a lawsuit, one of two things must be true: either the comments have to have been severe and pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment (not just an isolated instance of him calling you a racial name), or racial discrimination has to have been the reason Rod chose to fire you.

The other issues you mentioned - like a dispute over how much you should be paid, the fact that Rod doesn't like one of this employees playing golf with a board member, Rod stealing your ideas and claiming them for his own, and any yelling or name-calling that was NOT racially motivated (i.e. just him being a jerk) are all horribly unfair but not illegal, and do not give you any basis for a claim against the company.

You have two options: (1) file a charge with the EEOC based on racial discrimination during your employment and in your termination; or (2) contact an employment law attorney to evaluate whether you have a case against the company. If you contact an attorney and they take your case, they will likely send a "demand letter" to the company first, and if that doesn't resolve the matter, they will have you file a charge with the EEOC (you have to go though that step first before you can file a lawsuit of discrimination). Make sure you hire an employment law attorney, not just any attorney, since this is a very specialized area of the law. Also, many employment law attorneys do take cases on a contingency fee basis (the lawyer gets a percentage) rather than on an hourly rate -- for most people, paying an hourly rate for a lawsuit is not affordable. On the other hand, if the case can be settled just by the sending of a demand letter, you are better off paying an hourly fee. A lot depends on what you want -- Your job back? Money damages? If you hire a lawyer, discuss those options.

If you choose just to file an EEOC charge yourself, you can just go to the nearest EEOC office (you can find them online) and complete the paperwork. The company will be notified and may agree to mediate. If not, the case will go to an investigator and will take at least 6 months. You can find out more about the EEOC process here: https://www.eeoc.gov/field/tampa/charge.cfm That's a link to the Tampa Area Office (I don't know where you are located).

Meanwhile, you are entitled to unemployment compensation benefits, and can file online: http://www.stateofflorida.com/articles/florida-unemployment.aspx

Good luck.

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  May 2, 2016 08:56 AM [EST]

Answer This Question

Sign In to Answer this Question

Have an Employment Law question?