Most employees understand that they are not free to say or do anything that they would like on the job. Most employees are at-will, and therefore under employee laws can be terminated for almost any reason. However, there are instances where employees need to speak up about something like unsafe working conditions or other misconduct, but don’t because they are afraid of retaliation.
According to one former Burbank, California, police officer, fear of retaliation stopped him from reporting misconduct during an investigation. The police officer was apparently questioned following a robbery in 2007, during this questioning he lied to investigators. In 2009 during a second investigation into the incident, the man admitted that he lied in the first investigation and was fired by the department.
Following his termination, the man brought a wrongful termination suit claiming that he should not have been fired. He claims that he was pressured to lie by his superiors during the first investigation. Furthermore, he says the department didn’t fire him for lying but in retaliation for eventually telling the truth.
Recently, the city has brought a motion to dismiss the wrongful termination suit. A decision is expected by the judge in the case in the very near future.
Under California employment laws, it is wrongful for employers to fire an employee in retaliation for whistle blowing. This means that if an employee speaks up about some misconduct they cannot face punishment. If the employee is fired in retaliation, then the firing was wrongful and that employee may be entitled to compensation.
In this case, if the former officer has convinced the judge that he was fired because he spoke up, then his firing will likely be seen as wrongful. The case would then continue to determine if the man suffered damages. If the judge thinks the termination was based on the fact that he lied, then the case will likely be dismissed.
Source: The Burbank Leader, “Judge to rule on motion to dismiss Burbank police officer’s wrongful termination lawsuit,” Alene Tchekmedyian, April 1, 2013