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Suspicious Termination? California

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  • Suspicious Termination? California

    Hi All,

    Several weeks ago I was directed by one of my supervisors (I was a manager) that meal break violations (unpaid breaks taken after the 5th hour worked) would not be tolerated. If they continued to occur, managers would be written up for them. I obviously communicated as much to my staff and let them know they would also be documented if the violations continued to occur.

    On a day that we were extremely short staffed and busy, I had 2 employees who were about to get a meal break violation. One of the employees was the one who brought it to my attention. She and the other employee were unable to leave their stations. I asked if she wanted to be punched out to prevent the violation and she said yes. I asked the other employee if he wanted to be punched out, and he said yes. I swiped them both out with their cards and then returned them. Their relief showed up a few minutes later and I sent them both to lunch.

    Several weeks later, my boss and I decided to terminate the male employee. His performance was unacceptable and we began documenting. The employee, figuring out that he was about to be fired, typed up a long list of grievances, including the fact that I had in fact punched him out for a break.

    His letter was brought to my attention and I was questioned by the director of human resources, an associate director, and my direct supervisor. The HR woman asked me what happened and I told her. She told me it was a bad idea and not to do it again. I expressed that wouldn't be a problem. The associate director and I spoke later. He again asked for my story. I told it and he told me I would be written up for the incident. I accepted that. I then later spoke with my direct supervisor. He assured me I would not be fired for the incident (something that I didn't realize was possible). He stated he and the above had all discussed and agreed the amount of good work I did outweighed the one bad incident.

    The male employee was terminated.

    11 days after I was questioned about the incident, I was terminated. I have never been written up for anything. I was never presented with the write up I was told I would receive. All of my reviews have been more than positive and I had been with the company for over a year. The employee who wrote the statement no longer works for the company. The female employee continues to thank me for preventing her from being accessed the penalty of the violation.

    The company states that I falsified time cards. I submit that I had the permission of the employees. Second, if this was in a fact a zero tolerance offense, it was never communicated down. Third, the hr person never explained how serious the offense was, the associate director told me it was a write up, and my boss assured me several times I would not be let go.

    I really have a sour taste in my mouth over the whole situation and am wondering if there is any advice out there.

    Thank you in advance for any input.

  • #2
    You did falsify the time cards and you did put the employer at risk for wage claims. It didn't matter if you had the employees' permission or not. Somewhere along the line, all that "just don't do it again" and "no problem" got overridden.

    File for unemployment immediately if you have not already done so. If the employer protests, with the information you have provided about not being warned that doing so would be a terminable offense, you MIGHT prevail. No guarantees, though.

    Good luck.
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    • #3
      As a manager, it was your responsibility to ensure that your employees physically left their workstations in order to go for their legally-required mealbreaks - even if said employees didn't want to go. It was also your responsibility as a manager that your employees' time card information was accurate. Timecards showing they left for a mealbreak when they didn't actually leave for said mealbreak are inaccurate. The fact that you created this inaccuracy yourself is misconduct on your part.

      Finally, your point about the employees' giving you permission for your misconduct is meaningless - employees don't have the legal authority to "permit" their employers to break wage and hour laws.


      • #4
        Agree. You made a bad decision which put the company at risk for a violation. As the manager you should have used better judgement, covered for the employee but not knowingly punched out for a still working employee.
        Good luck in the future and hope you learn from this.


        • #5
          Agree with the others - not an illegal termination.

          Apply for UI benefits as suggested if you have not already done so.
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          • #6
            I will just add that the penalties for this type of violations are very large... this is not a "don't do it again" kind of thing.
            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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