Tag Archives: Termination

Can I Get Fired For Filing Bankruptcy?

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Low and middle income people are the last people to benefit from any economic recovery. For many economic recovery means a return to work the opportunity to put their household finances in order with steady income provided by a job. Unfortunately unpaid debts often mean that employees get garnished  or even having to file bankruptcy.

Congress intended for bankruptcy to allow for people to get a fresh start so they prohibited discrimination based on bankruptcy and even let employees sue employers for such discrimination. But this law is not as strong as other laws prohibiting discrimination on factors such as race or sex for two reasons.

First of all, your status as a debtor in bankruptcy must by the sole cause of job loss. Discrimination is difficult enough to prove already under either a motivating factor or proximate cause standardsole cause is more exacting than even the difficult proximate cause standard. If your employer has any other legitimate reason to fire you besides your bankruptcy, then a court will likely find the termination was lawful. The only way for an employee to preserve any type of discrimination case is not to give the employee a reason to terminate them because of their poor performance , attendance or poor attitude. But even good employees can get fired legitimate reasons such as restructuring and economicreasons.

Secondly most courts do not believe that bankruptcy discrimination prohibits employers from failing to hire employees based on bankruptcy.

Title VII and most state anti-discrimination laws state that a failure to hire based on certain protected categories is unlawful activity.

Finally in any discrimination claim, the employer needs to be aware of your protected status. In a bankruptcy discrimination case this means that your employer had to have known about your bankruptcy status prior to firing you. Some employees get fired because  employer doesn’t want to deal with a garnishment.  Most people, me included, think that such an action is wrong or unfair. But unless your employer knows that garnishment is linked to your bankruptcy status, then firing you based on that garnishment is legal  – unless the garnishment is a cover or pre-text for another unlawful reason.

I would encourage anyone reading this post to contact their U.S. Senator or Congressperson and ask them to change the bankruptcy discrimination statute to mirror other federal anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII.

What Football Can Teach White-collar Employees About Layoffs, Severance

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

With football season upon us, I would like to use football to explain some common situations that employees face.

I get a lot of calls from white-collar professionals who have long careers with a company but then are laid off a few months after a new boss is hired. This happens a lot in football when a general manager/athletic director replaces a head coach and the head coach fires the previous coach’s assistant coaches. White-collar employees in middle-management positions are essentially the equivalents of assistant coaches in football. In the world of football, it is assumed that a new head coach can bring in his new assistants. The same assumption holds true in the business world.

Assistant coaches are oftentimes “bought out” of their employment contracts. Sometimes white-collar professionals have employment contracts, but more often than not they do not. Sometimes professionals are offered severance agreements, but unless there is an employment contract, that severance is not a buyout. Employers are also under no obligation to offer severance. If severance is offered, that doesn’t necessarily mean that an employer wrongfully terminated the employee.

Of course, no employee can be terminated because of age, disability, sex, race, nationality, or in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity like filing for workers’ compensation or filing with OSHA. But even if there is some appearance of wrongful motivation on behalf of the employer, the employer can still defeat a potential lawsuit if they have a legitimate business reason for terminating the employee. Going back to a football analogy, if the new head coach wants to switch an offensive or defensive scheme, they have the right to hire the person they choose. The fact the new hire might be less effective than the old hire is not a decision that a court will second guess in a wrongful termination. Sure, if there is something else wrongful going on, it is something a court or a jury could consider, but in a case where there is a recent change in management, employees will have difficult time overcoming the assumption that the new boss just wants to “put in their team.”

Employee Termination Because of Facebook Comment Does Not End Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Jon Gelman of Jon L. Gelman, LLC.

An employee who was terminated because of comments made about her employer on Facebook has been allowed continuation of workers’ compensation benefits.

“Lawful termination, like fraud, cuts through everything; but the reasons for
firing here are murky. And whether it’s a legal termination or not isn’t a
question for this forum as workers’ compensation courts are not in the business
of determining whether a firing was appropriate. What is important here is
that termination from employment in and of itself does not end entitlement to
supplemental earnings benefits as set forth in the [Palmer v. Schooner ] case.
In the case at hand, [Ms. Miller] returned to work in a light duty status. She
worked for a short period of time until her termination on October 14, 2010.
She was terminated for violating a hospital policy by posting a comment on Facebook. 
Pursuant to Ms. Salutillo’s comments in the [CSPH] employee memorandum,
[Ms. Miller’s] employment was terminated based on failure to uphold standards of
behavior. After her termination, [Ms. Miller’s] treating physician took her
off work for a short period of time, but ultimately opined she could work light
duty.”

BRENDA MILLER v. CHRISTUS ST. PATRICK HOSPITAL

— So.3d —-, 2012 WL 5238000 (La.App. 3 Cir.), 2012-370 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/24/12)

Read More about Social Media and Workers’ Compensation

Jul 03, 2012
An injured worker was denied benefits when an Arkansas Court admitted into evidence Facebook pictures that were posted on line showing him drinking and partying. The worker had alleged that as a result of a hernia, 
Apr 13, 2012
Facebook’s new announcement today creates even a greater problem for workers’ compensation claimants. Providing even greater historical information about an unsophisticated Facebook user puts even more information, 
May 07, 2012
The announcement of Facebook to allow for the public listing of organ donors of it social media site, albiet with good intentions, raises concerns about the privacy of workers’ compensation claims as the organs could become