Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wrongful Termination

I was wrongfully terminated from my job this week. Just more than a year ago, I started to work for this company and my manager was racist, harassing and threatening me to get me to quit the job while I was on probation. The intention was to offer a full-time position to another person, whom he hired after me on a contract.

I complained to HR. They investigated and let him go.

A new manager came who is the best friend of my ex-manager. Initially, she promoted me and within three months of the promotion, today she fired me without giving any cause in writing. She verbally informed me that she is firing me because I have not followed her instructions. I do not know what to do.

I was shocked and said so but the result remains the same...I am terminated from the job, at first without any reason. But now they have changed the story and fired me based on these grounds: According to her instructions, we were to log any issue on the server if she or the other person in charge was not present. I worked on the server while in contact online with the other person in charge, and my log is also available in a saved file in the company's records. Unfortunately, I have no proof of the saved file as I do not have access to the server now that I am terminated. Any help?

by John West Hadley, Career Search & Career Enhancement Counselor, “Helping Job Seekers Who Are Frustrated With Their Search”

Think carefully about what you would really like to have happen next. Do you want to try to get your job back, or get another job at that company? Or do you want to just minimize the impact, and try to keep from having a blot on your record as you look for a new job? Given the situation, you have to ask yourself what your future at that company would look like, even if you were successful in getting them to reinstate you.

I would suggest talking this through with an employment attorney. Look for one who is very well-versed in these issues. If the case is as blatant as you’ve said, the attorney may be able to help you reach some form of relatively amicable settlement in which you get a severance benefit to help bridge you through to your next job, and a change in the official record to remove any indication that you were terminated for cause. You might even be able to secure a positive recommendation, given the recent promotion.

You are angry about your unfair treatment, and rightly so. You’re going to need to get past this to be able to move forward effectively in your career search and your career in general. Talk through your feelings about this with trusted advisors (your spouse, close friends, even a counselor), trying to put the whole situation behind you as best you can.

Explore what, if anything, you might have done differently. Think both about whether there is anything you might have done that contributed to the situation negatively, and whether there is anything you could have done differently that might have affected the outcome. This reflection will be very helpful in dealing with difficult situations as you go forward in your career. For example:

- When you first encountered the harassment, etc., how did you react? Is there anything you could have done differently?
- What steps did you take before you went to HR? Were there other steps you could have taken, and might this have affected the outcome?
- Did you talk about it with your manager, and your manager’s manager? How exactly did you approach them? What did you say the meeting was about, and how did you frame the discussion? What sort of things did you say, how did you say them, and how did they react?
- Did you document what happened in writing, and create a file of exactly what was said and done? Were there other forms of evidence you could have secured?
- How did you conduct the meeting with HR? What did you say to them and how, and what exactly did HR say to you? Is there another level of HR you could have gone to?
- Did you talk about any of this with any other employees at the company? Is it possible this would have gotten back to your managers or HR, and how might this have impacted the situation?

Be brutally honest with yourself in exploring all of this, and how you might have reacted differently to create a more positive response, if that was at all possible. You may want to talk through this with a trusted advisor to help you see it from a third party perspective. The key is to uncover any blind spot that could haunt you in the future, and to make sure that you are better prepared to deal with any future situations.

Now make sure that you are able to move forward, presenting yourself as a true professional, who is able to talk about difficult situations without criticizing past employers. You can’t afford to have networking contacts and potential hiring managers see the anger you currently feel, as it will interfere with making the strong connections you need to get to a great next job. If they see you as angry or saying bad things about a past employer, even if you appear to have good reasons, they will become hesitant about connecting you to possible opportunities or influential referrals, or they may do so with great caution.

For further help on your search, I invite you to check out the articles available on my website. You might also be interested in my Career Tips email newsletter… you can check out the contents of past issues.

Good luck!

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Wrongful Termination: Justifiably Claiming Wrongful Termination explains what issues are considered wrongful termination in the United States. This might help in figuring out how to proceed if you live and work in the U.S. If you are from another country, perhaps you can find similar guidelines online for your country.

Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

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