When you are called upon by an investigator who has appeared at your workplace to investigate one or more of your co-workers, it can be a stressful time, even though you’re not the person under investigation. Being sought to answer questions or give testimony can be scary, especially if the knowledge you hold (and the investigators are asking for) is potentially harmful to your employer and/or your supervisor. Even if that’s true, you should be entitled to speak freely, openly and honestly, without fear of reprisals that could damage or end your employment just because you spoke the truth.
If you suffer a loss of your job simply because you cooperated with investigators’ investigation into your supervisor, then you may have a claim for wrongful termination in California. If that situation describes you, you should act without delay to reach out and retain an experienced Oakland employment law attorney to represent you.
The type of scenario described above actually happened to one state government worker recently. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, S.T. was a fraud investigator for a department within the state government when the State Auditor’s office opened an investigation into the department’s director. The director was suspected of engaging in improper hiring practices; specifically, nepotism in hiring her daughter and a friend.
S.T. cooperated with the Auditor’s office. In November 2018, the department fired S.T., allegedly for “dishonesty, lack of judgment, disclosure of confidential information and excessive misuse of state time and resources,” according to the report.
S.T. sued, alleging that the real reason she was fired was retaliation for cooperating with the audit of the director. As support for her claim that she was wrongfully terminated due to retaliation, the worker pointed out that the audit revealed that fear of retaliation against cooperating employees was “widespread” within the department, and that the director had sought to identify and punish whistleblowers and employees whom the director suspected of cooperating with the audit.
S.T. eventually settled her lawsuit in exchange for a payment of $250,000 from the state, the Bee reported.
Wrongful termination can take many different forms
So, how exactly, does a wrongful termination case work? Under the law, wrongful termination can occur in any of several ways. It can happen if you are fired for filing a claim alleging workplace misconduct. It can also occur, though, when you merely testify or otherwise cooperate with an investigation into alleged workplace misconduct that victimized another person.
In other words, for example, your employer can be liable for wrongful termination if you filed a harassment or discrimination claim and your employer fired you for filing that claim. Be sure to note that your retaliation claim is separate from your underlying harassment or discrimination claim. You can win your wrongful termination case, and your employer can be liable for owing you compensation, as long as you proved that the termination happened in retaliation for your initiating the claim, even if the underlying harassment/discrimination claim eventually failed in its entirety.
Similarly, you can be successful in a wrongful termination claim if you have proof that your employer fired you because you participated in an investigation into potential workplace harassment or discrimination. That wrongful termination claim can succeed if you can prove retaliation in response to your cooperation, even if the underlying investigation eventually concluded that there was no actionable harassment or discrimination.
Workplaces can be filled with many varieties of pitfalls, from discrimination by supervisors to retaliation and punishment for cooperating with an investigation into wrongdoing (even if that cooperation was mandatory.) If you’ve found yourself in that type of situation, call upon the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Attorney Fuerch is a seasoned Oakland employment law attorney with many years of helping workers harmed by workplace misconduct to get the justice they deserve. To learn more about how we can help, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.