Published on April 30th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover
Question 1: Hello. Can you tell me if I can legally obtain a copy of my personnel file after termination in the state of Tennessee?
The Short Answer is “Maybe, and Maybe Not.” The law in Tennessee says that you do not have a “legal” right to obtain a copy of your personnel file unless you are a State Worker. (Tennessee Code 8-50-108). That said, you may have a good argument that you have a right to do so if (a) your former employer has a policy of granting copies upon request, or (b) your former employer says, in its Employee Manual or Handbook that it will provide a copy upon request. And even if you don’t have a “legal” right, or a good “argument,” it doesn’t hurt to ask, especially if there is a good reason behind your request.
Hope that’s helpful,
Question 2: I accepted and signed a job offer from the job placement agency and submitted all the required files (all info including SSN, ID’s, etc.) Then, two days later I got rejected because I am only a Green Card holder and not a citizen. I was supposed to start the job five days after accepting the offer. Question: Is there a breach of contract at the employer’s end?
The Short Answer is “No.” Though I am not licensed to practice law in Arizona, I can tell you that, for three separate reasons, the law in all states I know would say “No”: (1) First, it seems you did not meet one of the “conditions” of employment: U.S. Citizenship; (2) Second, you did not yet start working; the general “law of contracts” says that, unless one of the two sides start to “perform” his side of things, neither is bound to continue; and (3) If you did not have an employment contract for a job for a specific period of time, the law says that either side can end the employment relation even after a minute.The one exception to this is that a termination of services should not impose harm or cause damage. So, for example, if a painter is painting your house, it is presumed he or she will complete the job before resigning and leaving you with a half-painted house. Likewise, if a marketer or PR professional is in the middle of a marketing or PR campaign, it is implied into their agreement that they won’t walk out in the very middle of the job or campaign, without fair and adequate notice.
Keep up the job search,
Question 3: I am 60 years of age and in 2010 a 26-year-old worker lobbied through gossip to the supervisor for me to be fired. My relevant education and work experience surpassed the 26-year-old’s. The reason given for my firing was that I did not produce enough reports, but that was false, because I produced more than my younger colleagues. The 26-year-old is a different race than I am, and I found out that she is now being investigated by HR for racism. I am having difficulty finding a job. Do I have a reason to see an attorney?
Brooklyn, New York
The Short Answer is “Yes.” From what you have provided, good reason may exist to believe the reason for your termination may have been your age, or even perhaps your race. When a false reason is given for a termination, that alone is considered proof of a “bad reason.” By all means, I suggest you obtain a consultation with an employment attorney experienced in discrimination matters. Don’t delay – deadlines may be looming.
Get that legal consultation,
Question 4: What explanation should be provided when asked “Why were you terminated?” when no reason was given by the employer?
Loma Linda, California
The Short Answer is “Any reason you believe might be true.” Note that the question presented was “Why were you terminated?” It was not “Why DID THE EMPLOYER SAY you were terminated?” Those are two very different questions. To the question presented, you are entirely justified in giving any reason you believe might be true. You might review our blog’s Resource Section AA, entitled “Why Did You Leave? Your Response,” and especially one posting entitled “Our 25 Top Neutral Reasons to Explain Why You Left Your Old Job.” Don’t be afraid to give what you believe is the real reason, but of course, keep it positive. No one likes to hear negativity about a former employer.
Good luck in your job search,
Question 5: I work in a very toxic and hostile environment. I have been living in dread for six months, wondering each day what I am going to be accused of. My doctor says it is hurting me, and I am on medication to help me sleep and reduce anxiety. I feel I must leave for my health. Am I entitled to unemployment benefits?
The Short Answer is “Probably, if you resign correctly.” Illinois follows the rule that most states follow: If you resign for a “good reason,” you are entitled to receive unemployment benefits. What’s a “good reason”? Generally, sexual harassment, abusive behavior by colleagues or supervisors, or a health problem. You would be very wise – before you resign – to both (1) get a note from your doctor suggesting you need to do so, and (2) make some effort – even by sending a single email to HR – to report and correct the situation. Then, when you resign, you should use an “Involuntary Resignation.”
You can obtain a Model Involuntary Resignation Letter if you [click here].
Now, Get Your Health Back,
Question 6: A few months ago my supervisor sent me an email asking if I was planning on retiring. After I responded “No,” the storm broke. I am a tenured teacher, and the storm involved scheduling unnecessary meetings, daily emails on everything from unhappy parents to cleaning snow off my car, claims of grade inflation, etc. I’m now being forced into the equivalent of a Performance Improvement Plan. This seems like simply a license to ambush me. What steps can/should I take?
The Short Answer is “Review our Articles and Video on PIP’s.” Willa, performance improvement plans should be motivated and carried out in good faith; it is sad to say, but they are often how you characterize them: licenses to ambush. The best thing you can do is to review the many articles and other materials we offer in our blog to “Push Back.” You can see all we have to offer if you simply [click here].
Stand Up and Push Back,
Question 7: I did not sign a Confidentiality Agreement when I started my job. I just gave my two weeks notice to resign. My employer wants me to sign a Confidentiality Agreement now. Can he withhold my last paycheck if I refuse to sign it?
The Short Answer is “No, but . . .” There’s no question about it: if you work the next two weeks, you must be paid for the next two weeks. Your employer cannot withhold your last paycheck if you refuse to sign the Confidentiality Agreement. However, he can tell you not to come in for those next two weeks, and – by preventing you from working the next two weeks – can, in that way, deny you your pay. But, if you work, you must get paid.
Good luck in your transition,
Got a question? Feel free to submit it for Alan to answer. But please keep it brief and to the point. If you do so, you agree that Alan’s answers are not legal advice, but only suggestions to consider. Please understand that not all questions can be answered, due to limitations on time and space. Still, we “do our best to do our best.”
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