Unlawful Termination

I was accused, then terminated from employment for violating a WORKPLACE policy OFF the job, on my own time. The company accused me of posting a racially derogatory comment on a PUBLIC Yahoo message board on my own time at home. I denied posting the comment, but was suspended. The company's termination letter even spells out this was the reason for my termination. Am I obligated to conduct myself according to the company's WORKPLACE policies in my private and public life, away from the job? Don't I have some rights and protections in my favor?

Thank you,

Cliff Swiger

1 answer  |  asked Dec 30, 2003 06:18 AM [EST]  |  applies to West Virginia

Answers (1)

walt auvil
inapplicable to a private employer

the short answer depends upon whether the employer is a private company or a public agency. if it is a private company you are probably out of luck. i was the attorney for the nurse whoise case is described in the clip from lexis quoted below. as you may see the free speach argument we tried did not work out too well there, because we were dealing with a private employer.

"Plaintiff nurse filed an action alleging that defendant hospital unlawfully terminated her employment and tortiously interfered with her subsequent employment. The Circuit Court of Kanawha County (West Virginia) entered two orders granting summary judgment to the hospital. The nurse sought review of the circuit's court's orders.

OVERVIEW: The nurse wrote a letter to a newspaper criticizing the hospital's budgetary cutbacks. The newspaper published the letter. The hospital expressed displeasure with the nurse's actions, but took no adverse action. Thereafter, the hospital conducted a nonpublic meeting to discuss a planned merger. The nurse brought a reporter to the meeting. The hospital objected and terminated the nurse's employment shortly after the meeting. The hospital also informed the nurse's subsequent employer that she was a union organizer. Upon receipt of the information, the employer terminated its relationship with the nurse. The nurse filed an action alleging numerous theories of liability. The court held (1) the nurse could not maintain a claim for wrongful discharge based upon a violation of the public policy of freedom of expression, as found in the Free Speech Clause of the West Virginia Constitution, because the Clause was inapplicable to a private employer such as the hospital, and (2) the information the hospital gave the nurse's subsequent employer was truthful and the hospital thus had an absolute defense to the nurse's tortious interference claim.

OUTCOME: The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the hospital with regard to the nurse's wrongful discharge and tortious interference claims. The court reversed, in part, and remanded the matter with instructions for the circuit court to make further factual findings regarding its dismissal of the remainder of the nurse's claims."

Tiernan v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 203 W. Va. 135 (1998)

good luck.

walt auvil
the employment law center, pllc
1208 market street
parkersburg, wv 26101
phone: 304-485-3058
fax: 304-485-6344

posted by walt auvil  |  Dec 30, 2003 12:35 PM [EST]

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