If you’ve been accused of harassment at work – whether or not it’s true – can your employer legally fire you? This guide explains.
Can Your Employer Fire You After Accusing You of Harassment?
Employers are legally required to protect employees from harassment, and that may mean that if you’ve been accused of harassment, your employer can fire you. In fact, it’s your employer’s duty to provide a safe, peaceful workplace for you and all its other employees – so if you’re accused of harassing another person, the balance is tipped and your employer can let you go.
Will You Get Fired for Harassing Someone Outside of Work?
Generally, the law gives employers the right to fire you for the things you do when you’re off-duty. For example, if your actions publicly give the company a bad name, you bully others or make racist comments online, or you break the law, your employer can legally fire you. (It actually happens all the time.) Employers that fire people for misconduct outside of work are typically well within their rights to do so, and a person can’t often claim that they were wrongfully terminated over something they did outside of work.
For the most part, the only reasons employers cannot fire you have to do with discrimination (except in the state of Montana, which does not have “at-will” employment laws). However, if you’re in a union that has a contract with your employer that says you’ll only be fired for cause, and only for employment-related reasons, you may be an exception. The same is true if you have your own employment contract between you and your employer.
Can You Get Fired for Reporting Harassment?
It’s unlawful for an employer to fire you for reporting harassment in the workplace. However, some employers go out of their way to find other reasons to fire people who report harassment (sometimes called whistleblowers).
This is a form of retaliation, and it’s wrong. If you’re fired for reporting harassment, you may have a case against your employer, and it may be a good idea for you to talk to an attorney about your situation.
Wrongful Termination and Harassment
Wrongful termination is a phrase used when an employer fires someone for the wrong reasons. In the state of California, your employer can fire you for just about anything – being late, telling off a customer, microwaving fish in the break room during lunch, or even giving someone a dirty look across the factory floor. Your employer doesn’t even have to tell you why you’re fired – your supervisor can walk up to you, tell you to collect your belongings and escort you out the front door while telling you not to come back for your next shift.
But your employer cannot fire you for refusing advances from a sexual harasser, for refusing to participate in something illegal or unethical, for reporting harassment or because you’re a member of a protected class. For example, your employer cannot fire you because of your:
- Sex or gender (including pregnancy)
- Gender identity or gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Military or veteran status
- Marital status
- Medical condition
- National origin or ancestry
- Genetic information
- Request for family care leave, leave for your own serious health condition, or for pregnancy disability
If your employer fires you for one of those reasons, it may be guilty of wrongful termination. However, if your employer fires you because you’re accused of harassing others in the workplace, it’s not likely to be found guilty of wrongfully terminating you. Other employees’ rights to work in a place free from harassment typically supersede your rights to do what you want at work.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Your Employer Firing You After Accusing You of Harassment?
If you were not guilty of harassment and you believe your employer fired you for an unlawful reason (such as a discriminatory reason or because you were the one who reported harassment in the workplace), we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation with a Los Angeles employment lawyer now.