do i have a case if i was terminated for saying to my boss Im going to ask as to my rights at DLSE?

My "supervisor/foreman" came to me showing a picture of my task i completed 2 days prior, and yelling at me in front of every employee, asking why i didn't do what i was instructed to do and why i just decided to do whatever i wanted to do?( I wasn't instructed by him on how to do the task properly) The employee that asked me to do this task never told me todo it the way the boss wanted and i had asked him during the day to check my work and give me comments and he said everything is fine. During this intense scolding from my boss that had me on a roller coaster of emotions, I tried my best to remain professional and not say anything that i might regret later, but I did mention i was going to speak to a representative with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). I worked the entire day and at the end of the day, which was Friday Oct 14th, the same boss approached me saying, "take your tools home I don't have any work for you next week". I assumed that was his "nice" way of terminating me, and without giving me my last check that was due to me. I'm assuming he terminated me cause I said something about how this was really unprofessional the way he handled the situation and that I'm going to inquire about my rights with the DLSE. Is this considered a wrongful termination for which i can file a formal complaint?

1 answer  |  asked Nov 2, 2016 1:03 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Marilynn Mika Spencer
You will need to show that you were terminated because of the threat to contact DLSE and not because the employer thought you did things your way and not how it wanted you to do them, not because of the disagreement that took place in front of everyone, and not for any other reason.

Assuming you could make this showing, you still may have a difficult time because the DLSE does not have jurisdiction (authority to act) over all employment disputes. It only has jurisdiction over wage and hour disputes and some whistleblower retaliation claims. Nothing you described appears related to a wage and hour dispute or whistleblower activity.

In addition, a threat to contact a remedial agency such as the DLSE, OSHA, etc. may be insufficient to support a claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Some courst require an actual contact plus the employer's knowledge of the contact. I have not researched this recently so do not know the current state of the law off the top of my head. Perhaps another attorney will respond who has this information.

You may wish to consult with an attorney regarding the termination. Before you do, you should know that employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: http://www.thespencerlawfirm.com/pdf/tslf-at-will-california.pdf. After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org. Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.

I hope there is a good resolution to this situation.

posted by Marilynn Mika Spencer  |  Nov 3, 2016 12:34 PM [EST]

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