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

Answers:

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).


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