Can an employer tell other employees that a co-worker is being terminated before they are actually let go?

I was informed by several co-workers that I am being fired. The managers were telling several of my co-workers and told them they should not tell anyone. I am currently still employed and going to work and doing my job as usual. I am being terminated for “leaving the premisis.” I went outside to smoke a cigarette. They have video of me walking out the front door and walking back in a short time later. Other employees are able to do what I had done. There is no handbook and no-one ever told me I couldn’t. I don’t take a lunchbreak either. I have never been written up for anything either.

Asked on May 29, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Yes, an employer may tell its staff that a co-worker is being terminated before the termination actually happens. In fact, an employer may tell everyone else about the termination before it even tells the to-be terminated employee. What you describe is obviously unprofessional, but it is legal--the law does not restrict who may be told of a termination, when.

Also, employers may be inconsistent in who they chose to discipline or even terminate for a given act; the law does not require employers to treat all employees fairly or the same, so long as the basis for the discrepant treatment is not specifically unlawful discrimination (e.g. on the basis of race, religion, age over 40, sex, or disability).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.