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Was it insubordination or a matter of convenience? Oregon

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  • Was it insubordination or a matter of convenience? Oregon

    After six years of employment where I was an outstanding employee (employee of the year twice) and well respected by my peers and in the community, a person within the organization was promoted to be my new boss. In our first meeting on a Friday, as my new "boss", he admitted that he didn't know anything about what I did or how to run my office. I had six years of experience doing this and he didn't have any experience doing the job.

    Anyway, at our first meeting, he made mention of something that made me uneasy and that was not a good thing for our branch. Later that day I emailed him for clarification, and he restated what he had earlier told me. I wrote him back that what he proposed what not good for the office and that it would hurt us in the community and that I couldn't do what he was asking.

    I didn't hear anything else from him about this. At the end of that first meeting, he made an appointment to come back out the next week on Thursday. I worked Monday through Thursday of that week. On Tuesday I wrote him to confirm what we would be going over specifically on Thursday, and he said office practices and the budget. I asked him who would be at the meeting, and he said only himself and me.

    On Thursday afternoon, he came in to the office with the HR director and I was fired for insubordination. There was no discussion about my disagreement with him, it was get out of the office as soon as you can, after six years of exemplary service. Because I was terminated "for cause", they refused to pay me for my accumulated vacation and comp time, which was substantial because I never took vacations or time off.

    Anyone have any ideas on this? I am planning on taking them to court as I don't feel my disagreement with a new boss who didn't know what he was doing rises to the level of insubordination. Also, because of the time delay of a week, I felt that they fired me for their own convenience. Finally, kind of important, my former boss, still with the company, told me that they simply wanted to get rid of me and bring in his own people.

    Anyone help would be nice.

  • #2
    Unless you have an employment contract stating otherwise, you were an at-will employee and could be terminated at any time for any reason that is not specifically prohibited by law.

    Refusing to do what the employer asks, which you did, is insubordination. You might have recourse if what you asked to do is illegal, but not if it's simply something that you don't agree with.
    I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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    • #3
      There is no legal definition of insubordination. It is what the employer says it is.

      It is legal for them to fire you at their convenience. It is also legal for them to fire you so the boss can bring in his own people.

      Oregon law does not require the payout of unused vacation unless provided by policy or contract. Nor are they required to pay out comp time (unless they are a public agency).

      Frankly, I'm not seeing where you have grounds to take them to court. I'm not saying I approve of the way they handled things, but I don't see anything illegal.
      The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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      • #4
        What I didn't include in the first post....

        The reason I am taking them to court is that in their policy handbook, it states that they are obligated to pay any unused and accumulated vacation time and comp time and I had accumulated quite a bit of this. For exempt employees on salary, it's understood that this is one of the benefits to the job with this organization. However, I understand that the employer can fire an employee in Oregon for any reason (unless falls under a few illegal premises) because Oregon is an at-will state, but I am out my accumulated comp time because the loophole is that if they fire an employee for cause, then that negates payout of the vacation/comp time.

        I used to work for a law firm out of college and we represented employers in termination and unemployment matters, and it was generally found that if you are going to fire someone for insubordination, it should be done rather quickly after the event, otherwise, if the employee is allowed to continue working for days or weeks, the insubordination does not rise to the level of cause or misconduct and instead the termination is considered to be at the convenience of the employer.

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        • #5
          You don't need to go to court. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call the state DOL. They will tell you if you are owed any vacation time or not, and help you get it if it is due.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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          • #6
            employer policies are not law and are, therefore, not enforceable by law.

            While it is best from a management point of view to react to insubordination quickly, a termination in an at will state can come with any or no reason at any time with or without warning.

            You may still be terminated... the only thing that possibly changes is your ability to collect UI...
            Not everything that makes you mad, sad or uncomfortable is legally actionable.

            I am not now nor ever was an attorney.

            Any statements I make are based purely upon my personal experiences and research which may or may not be accurate in a court of law.

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