Can an employer in an “at will” state terminate your employment based upon the hearsay of another co-worker without giving you due process?

I was fired based on hearsay from another employee. I was never told what she said, nor was my statement taken or was I asked any questions. I was just fired. I never faced my accuser or was given any paperwork other than that of my termination and the reason they choose. In addition to false claims, there were also false evidence provided (i.e. false eyewitness account) I was the only African American working on my unit and I feel they made their decision based on the reputation Detroit carries, which is where I am from.I fact, 2 weeks before my termination, a minor argument about my race arose.

Asked on July 4, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:

1) An employee at will may be fired at any time, for any reason, and has no right to due process--e.g. no right to confront accusers, no right to tell his/her side of the story, no right to dispute (or even see) any evidence against him/her, etc. The employer does not need to prove or validate any alleged reason for termination. Due process rights apply to criminal and certain quasi-criminal actions by the government; they do not apply to private employers making employment decisions.

2) That said, it is illegal to discriminate in employment on racial grounds. If you think your termination was based on racial bias, you may have a racial discrimination claim or lawsuit; you could contact the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state equal/civil rights agency. Alternately, you could speak with a private attorney about possibly bringing a lawsuit.

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