Jul 5 2023
Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.
Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we gonna talk about today?
Goodbaum: I want to talk about an employee who is terminated from their job because they’re looking for another job. Imagine: You’ve got a job. It’s okay, but you think you can do better. So you take some time off from work to submit applications and interview for a few jobs. You’re looking, but your present employer hears about it. They say, “Hey, we don’t want a disloyal employee here. If you’re looking for another job, go do that on your own time. You’re out.” What can that person do, if anything?
DeMatteis: Well, they might not be able to do anything.
You have to remember that we’re all employees-at-will, unless we have an employment contract that governs the terms of our employment with our employers. So as an employee-at-will, your boss or your employer can let you go at any time, for any reason at all, so long as it’s not an illegal one. So if they don’t like that you’re interviewing for a job, they can cut ties. If they don’t like your shirt, Josh, they could cut ties. Remember, it’s not “Can your employer do something?”; it’s “Can we hold them liable for violating one of our state or federal laws that protects employees from illegal employment action?”
So, what is that? Is it discrimination? Is it retaliation? Is it a wrongful termination in violation of a public policy? The list goes on and on. But the question is, what is motivating their decision to take this action? So, if you recently went out on a medical leave, or if you’ve recently engaged in some other type of protected activity, and your employer is now saying, “Hey, we got wind of the fact that you were interviewing so we’re going to terminate you,” but really the motivation is based on some other protected activity that you may have engaged in at work, well then, that may be actionable.
So, as with a lot of these conversations that we have and the education that we try to provide to Connecticut employees, it’s really, really fact-specific, and it’s not just so simple as “Hey, I took time off to interview for a job, and I got terminated. Do I have a case?” That might not be enough information for us to really analyze a particular set of circumstances and give you good, sound legal advice on what you can or cannot do.
If you find yourself in a position like this, reach out to an employment lawyer. Go through all of the facts that have led to this particular circumstance, and then maybe we can analyze whether or not this is a violation of state or federal laws that protect employees or if your employer instead is just acting within the legal bounds of employment-at-will.
Goodbaum: Important information. You know, often people who aren’t lawyers, Amanda, think that we lawyers have all the answers to all the questions, and sometimes we don’t. But even that is important information to have. So, we hope this is helpful to all you watching, and take care. We’ll see you next time.