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Mr. Bowser

Fired after falsely accused of theft

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I live in the US, and we have this OSHA (occupational safety and health admin) that is supposed to ensure a safe work environment for employees.

Anyway over the summer (july) one of the upper management mixed bleach and hydrochloric acid which poisoned a bunch of employees with chlorine gas. The next day management sent employees out to the contaminated work space assuring them that it was safe to do so. However one of these employees was gravely injured due to residual chlorine gas. The manager who caused the accident is still employed by the company.

I filed a complaint with OSHA (who provides whistle blower protection), and an agent came out in September, inspected the facility and fined the company in excess of 20,000 USD.

On Sunday a bunch of power tools were stolen from work (at least 3 with battery packs and charger and a bag full of tools). They questioned me, since I had supposedly been in the area twice when the theft took place in the maintenance shop. The first time I was in the shop, a new employee (2 weeks on the job) was back there, I introduced my self and dropped my back pack off in the office, and then left. The other employee was in the office the entire time I was back there the first time and would have been privy to any suspicious activity. The second time I was in the back, I was there for a minute or two, just long enough to grab my back pack and leave. Certainly not enough time to hide that many power tools AND grab my back pack (which wouldn't fit that much crap in it anyway). I also stopped on my way out to talk to a co-worker for a good 15-20 minutes, where a back pack full of power tools would be easily noticed.

Management (the same manager who caused the chlorine accident) called me in on Tues and asked a whole bunch of questions, which I was very forthcoming and honest about. They claim that it could only be me or the new guy (I have been there over six years). I go in to work today, and the same manager wants to talk to me again. This time I wrote up all the evidence which proves I could not have possibly stolen the equipment in advance and provide it to them before the meeting. They tell me they aren't accusing me of stealing the equipment, and it doesn't even matter if I did or not. My story is not consistent, and they don't feel comfortable employing me further. I ask what is inconsistent, and they do not offer explanation. I ask to know the exact amount of time I was in the shop area both the first and second time, they refuse to provide this information, even though they have it on tape. I state my belief that I am being discriminated against for filing the OSHA complaint that resulted in over 20,000 USD fines. They of course deny this. They offer me 2 weeks of pay if they terminate me and offer 4 weeks pay if I willingly resign. I begin to sign the willing resignation and tear it up after my first name is signed. I take off my work shirt and leave the building.

I am currently filing for discrimination with OSHA, and will be contacting a local employment attorney to weigh my options. Any other suggestions?

EDIT: I have been there six and a half years handling tools/equipment and parts ordering and 2 years working a cash register, and have never been implicated in theft of any kind.

Edited by Mr. Bowser

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I am currently filing for discrimination with OSHA, and will be contacting a local employment attorney to weigh my options. Any other suggestions?

Dont know about the american Standard procedure for cases like this but i would certainly do the very same thing. Signing that paper would be no option for me. In germany, the Employer wouldnt stand a chance in court btw. But like i said, dont know shit about the american Employment Laws so i´ll better shut up now and let the guys who know better talk. :)

Edited by Evil Genius

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i dont know how it works there, but as it works here. If you werent charged by the police then there wasnt enough evidence to fire you.

You would have a good case for unfair dismissal

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Thanks for the replies EG and El presidente Hillbillios! Just talked to a local attorney who represents mostly employers in labor law. He said that since I declared that I was in fact the OSHA whistle blower in writing just minutes before they talked to me to terminate me AND the woman who caused the accident in the first place that I reported was the same one who made the decision to terminate me, I have a fairly strong case against them, and her specifically. He also recalled a case where he was representing an employer who was charged by OSHA with discrimination against an employee. Ultimately the company he was representing went under because the cost of legal hearings fighting OSHA were insurmountable. :lol:

I didn't sign the resignation because I didn't steal this equipment and would rather be terminated with dignity than resign as a coward. Plus I think it shows that if I really needed the money bad enough to steal that equipment from them (which if sold would be less money than the extra two weeks pay they offered me anyway) I would have taken the resignation option.

Yea, I was not charged by the police, so think I've got a good case for whistle blower discrimination. My state is an "at will" state which means my employment can be terminated at any time, for any reason... but somehow still allows recourse for whistle blower discrimination in the civil courts as well as administratively through OSHA. No idea how that's supposed to work in practice :o

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In most places you also lose your right to unemployment benefits if you resign too so it is better to be fired. The two extra weeks of pay would not have been worth it in any case--well only if you had stolen the tools and they were offering not to press charges.

Good on your for not signing it. Sounds like whistle blower discrimination to me which at least in OSHA and OEO claims supersedes any sort of at will provision. Good luck with your case.

Edited by mira

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sounds to me like the whistleblower dobbed you in. if he didnt then the workplace you work for probably was notified somehow of a suspected whistleblower. if that was the case then managment probably colluded and tried to figure out the whistleblower. the chlorine idiot manager stole the tools as a trap. it was a possible win win trap. they tried to lure you into admitting you were the whistleblower by entrapping and frustrating you into a final admission. if they got it wrong then at worst it was a 50/50 chance to get rid of the whistleblower as they probably weighed up who the most likely two suspects were. being there for 6 years and your underlying body language probably gave you away. now you have been set up as a thief and in all honestly you are the whistleblower (not that i mean that negatively) so basically you got buckleys of any reformative or legal action because you are now branded a thief and are covered with mud. in this case mud sticks and you were set up. your stuffed and have to swallow that bad life lesson.

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....and have to swallow that bad life lesson.

.and what would that lesson be santi?

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i suppose bad shit happens to nice people...um

life lesson in cruelty learned...um

when a line of soldiers is asked for a volunteer the volunteer is usually the one who doesnt step backwards...um

gotta know when to holdem, know when to foldem...um

mud sticks...um

basically the lesson is just a lesson in dirty politics, in the real world the hero doesnt always win and life can be a fucked up place and theres nothing you can do but move on and wake up to a brand new day a little wiser, common sense all that feel good wrapped up bullshit, im sure most people understand the lesson here, in the end we can all be manipulated easier than we think.

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sounds to me like the whistleblower dobbed you in. if he didnt then the workplace you work for probably was notified somehow of a suspected whistleblower. if that was the case then managment probably colluded and tried to figure out the whistleblower.

I wrote a statement of fact that explicitly declared that I was a whistle blower. This document was read by the chlorine manager 5 minutes before she calle me back to terminate me. My attorney assures me that since this was the first time I explicitly stated my whistle blowing involvement was immediately followed by termination (within 10 minutes). Although I am sure they knew it was me all along, since I was the only employee who squaked about the hazardous work conditions to begin with, I couldn't prove that they knew anything at all about me being a whistle blower. Evidently my attorney seemed really disappointed with my case until I told him this bit of info :)

basically the lesson is just a lesson in dirty politics, in the real world the hero doesnt always win and life can be a fucked up place and theres nothing you can do but move on and wake up to a brand new day a little wiser, common sense all that feel good wrapped up bullshit, im sure most people understand the lesson here, in the end we can all be manipulated easier than we think.

Yes, I've witnessed plenty of cavalier dirty politics played by this company. And yes, I knew that if I filed the OSHA complaint, they would try everything in their power to terminate me. I'm just glad I'm on record stating my whistleblowing before termination. Also, Santiago, you may be right about the framing. The maintenance manager who got screwed by the OSHA complaint was the one who "found the tools missing" to begin with. (not the same one who caused the accident, but also took the fall for the complaint) They have been shady before by basically fired an entire department of underlings after their supervisor was replaced, and never had good reason for each termination. I've got another job as a contractor with a more legit company and also work for myself contracting. This seems like a nice push to get me out of such a negative environment and into a more positive on.

Ultimately, I would whistle blow against them again any day of the week. Just wish I remembered to drink syrup of ipacac before I went in to the final meeting and projectile vomit all over them :puke:

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sorry bowser i meant to write the "whistleblower hotline", the actual dude who may run that thing. if he is human he is has the ability to be corrupt. its pretty obvious if what you say is totally true you were set up. in regards to learning a lesson i dont write that as a metaphorical utopian statement god like to you, more as a general picture i see. simply i think they fucked you over good time and it might be a hard grind to fight this on any actual factual evidence even though you are rightly agrieved. at the end of the day i suppose you were framed but thats the conundrum with framing as its all negative proof. dont get yourself into any more trouble, walk away and thats it but keep that cold bit in your heart for when you need it next. you obviously feel you did the best thing and i totally agree with you and hopefully this will make you the best person you can possibly be in future situations. those scumbags dont need any more of your attention mate, that shallow win for them will not last long but your benifit will last a lifetime, just you wait and see. :wink:

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Any suggestions for discussing this situation with prospective employers? I.e. what to put in the application form under "reason for leaving this position". I was thinking something along the lines of "personal" or "discrimination/unsafe work environment". I figure it would be better to explain the situation better in person. :unsure:

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Good thing you refused to sign the willing resignation - you might actually have a leg to stand on if you decide to take them to court. That's the document that saves them from any wrongdoing, and for 2 weeks extra pay it's not fucking worth it. If you were in Australia I reckon you'd be able to claim unfair dismissal and you'd most likely win because if they cannot prove that you did anything wrong.

I have no idea about unfair dismissal laws in the US but I know a couple of cases where people have been accused without proof and gotten compensation.

One dude worked at a nursery, was stealing heaps of shit, was accused on suspicions without proof and got given three options:

1) He quits

2) Cops will be called

3) Fired and "see ya in court"

... unfortunately for the employer the court date was literally the day before the Howard Government's changes to unfair dismissal laws came into effect. He got about $10k out of em even though he was originally in the wrong, went to South America and spent the most part of 6 months snorting coke by the oz.

Second situation was a friend that worked for Apple. In the system somehow his account was given administrator privileges that normally one in his position shouldn't have. Something glitched out in the system and all the sick days for his store got wiped - they accused him and fired him. He fought it and got a few grand out of em, and most importantly able to still use them as a reference which was necessary landing him a sweet job running the mac laptop program in a private girls school in the city.

Any suggestions for discussing this situation with prospective employers? I.e. what to put in the application form under "reason for leaving this position". I was thinking something along the lines of "personal" or "discrimination/unsafe work environment". I figure it would be better to explain the situation better in person

Unsafe work environment is definitely the winner, as long as you don't put them as a reference of course. It's always considered unsavoury to bad-mouth the previous employer regardless of how things ended, but claiming you left based on unsafe environment indicates that you would rather leave a job upon a threatening to personal wellbeing then hang around until you're injured and then sue them for injury compensation. I know in Australia they legally cannot give you a bad reference, they either have to give a good one or refuse to give one.

My partner who has had multiple management positions where hiring new employees has been a responsibility advises the following:

DO NOT EVER say 'personal' or 'discrimination' on a job application unless you have won a unfair dismissal court case. 'Personal' shows that you left for reasons of not being able to maintain positive relationships with team and management. 'Discrimination' without legal proof implies an unwillingness to take responsibility for any wrong doing that could have led to you leaving a previous employer, so if you win a court case against them then you have every right to explain you were discriminated against otherwise keep your mouth shut.

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Thanks Indigo!

Just met with an attorney yesterday, and her advice was spot on with yours! Most employers would be less than comfortable to hire an employee who quit because of "discrimination" or taking their employer to court, even if it was completely justified. She suggested citing hazardous work conditions under why I left.

Basically, 99% of cases are settled before a court verdict, and she assured me that even if it were settled in court, my chances of winning are solid. She likes my case so much she waved a whole bunch of consultation and retainer fees! I'm really glad things are looking hopeful again, and my former employer will be notified of my intent to file suit within the week... Just like I told them... "you'll be hearing from my solicitor" lol!

My former employer seems to have reported to the Dept. of Human Servics that I refused employment (not that I was fired by the company) so that I could not receive unemployment benefits, in an attempt to further retaliate against me. Fortunately, this is just more evidence to help my case as there is now record they lied to a credible government agency :lol:.

Also during settlement, I will be able to change the record of my departure such that to any perspective employers I officially resigned, and that along with the length of time I worked there is the only information they can legally disclose. They can also be compelled to submit a correction to D. HS so I may receive the benefits to which I'm entitled.

Hurray! Thanks for all the support everyone!

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