Dallas Attorney Protects Employees From Retaliatory Corporate Ethics Terminations
What is at-will employment?
At-will employment is the default form of employment in the United States. In most states, you must prove that the employment was not at-will or the court will assume at-will as the default. Compared to just-cause employment, at-will employment does not require any reason, either from the employer or the employee, to terminate the employment relationship. Public policy concerns have limited the harshness of at-will employment to a degree by establishing protected grounds — including race, religion and age — that are impermissible to dismiss employees under. However, the fact remains that employment relationships can be terminated swiftly and for almost any, or no, reason at all. With such broad discretion, it is not at all surprising that managers and executives consult with attorney Steve Kardell.
Why should I be concerned about corporate ethics terminations?
Since the Enron and WorldCom collapses brought about by insider wrongdoing, the U.S government through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has encouraged companies to establish internal reporting and compliance mechanisms. Unfortunately, following a complaint of wrongdoing or executive malfeasance, the internal compliance machinery all too often investigates the whistleblower rather than the fraud or other bad act reported. The investigation is not limited to the reported act and often looks for any improper behavior by the whistleblower to rid the organization of a troublemaker.
Corporate ethics terminations as a cure-all for whistleblower suits
Unfortunately, corporate ethics terminations as a one-size-fits-all solution are not merely a theoretical possibility. Internal compliance investigations turn the spotlight on the whistleblower in many instances, including:
- Wiest v. Lynch: The whistleblower alleged accounting improprieties concerning company expense reports. Despite being employed for 31 years, the whistleblower’s background was thoroughly investigated by the company, and it was discovered that he had accepted baseball tickets as a gift from a vendor in violation of company policy. Additionally, he may have made “sexually aggressive” comments in the past and engaged in an “improper relationship” with a former employee. Following these items becoming public, the whistleblower took a leave of absence. He was then fired for ethics violations.
- Hemphill v. Celanese Corp.: Here, the whistleblower also claimed there were improprieties with expense reports. After he made these allegations, his background was investigated, and it was discovered that he had “yelled” at a secretary over a relatively minor matter. He denied that this event occurred as stated at the internal investigation meeting. He was dismissed, due to the subjective nature of what constitutes yelling.
These wrongful, retaliatory discharges are all too common. Consulting and planning with an experienced whistleblower and internal investigations attorney can help you prepare in advance and avoid this pitfall.
Contact our attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to handle your wrongful corporate ethics termination
If you have been dismissed on corporate ethics grounds or are planning to report wrongdoing, contact experienced attorney Steven Kardell. Appointments may be scheduled by phone at 214-306-8045 or online.