Published on May 24th, 2008 by Alan L Sklover
Question: Recently I was offered and accepted a new job. HR told me that my hiring was conditioned on the results of a pending background check. Before I started they told me the background check was complete, and I was cleared for work. After my first day of work on the new job, when I went home I received a telephone call from HR telling me I was fired because they found a court case pending against me for not paying a parking ticket. I had no idea of this ticket. I left a job of 5 years, with great benefits, for this new job. I want to be compensated for the time I was out of work. Do I have any legal rights here?
Sharone, Providence, RI
Answer: Unless you are one of the very few employees with an employment contract, your employer (and you) can end the employment relation at any time, so long as the reason is not prohibited by law. Though the reason you were terminated seems very odd, and the fact that you weren’t given any chance to explain the situation seems cruel, you probably have no “legal” rights.
You might be thinking to yourself, “But they told me the background check was complete, and it wasn’t. They told me a falsehood, or a lie, or broke a promise.” Logically speaking, you’d be right, but legally speaking, since you could be fired for any reason, at any time, the law says you can’t have any expectation of remaining employed for any period of time, even one second.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write to either the company CEO, or even the members of the company’s Board of Directors, and explain what happened, and ask them how they would feel if it happened to them, or to their daughter. Tell them how much you lost, and how silly the reason for your firing was. Tell them that their not giving you a chance to explain, or defend yourself, is simply wrong. There’s nothing wrong to appealing to people’s sense of right and wrong, their sense of good and bad, their inner view of what’s decent and indecent, when it comes to how to treat an employee. Tell them that a payment for the time lost is the right thing to do. An honest, sincere letter like this works more often than you’d think. It’s worked for many of our clients. But keep it respectful.
You’ve definitely been mistreated, at no fault of your own. I hope you get back on your feet quite soon. Sorry I couldn’t give you better news.
Best, Al Sklover
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