Can I be told I am not allowed to talk about a criminal act committed by my manager to anyone in the company if I have proof?

Two employees who report to me alerted me to
criminal acts that they witnessed my supervisor
commit. They reported it to their superiors at that
time who actively covered it up. When I became their
supervisor they informed me. I reported it to the top
management for my department. They ignored it and
told me not to talk about it and to tell my employees
the same. I have now received a written warning
from my VP telling me again I am not allowed to talk
to anyone in the company about it. The direct quote
is ‘Any further reference to this allegation by you to
anyone in the Company, absent actual additional
facts, will be considered insubordination and grounds
for immediate separation’. Is this legal? I work in
Arizona for a national retailer.

Asked on July 15, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unless this mandate violated the terms of an employent contract or union agreement it is legal. The fact is that most work relationships are "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). Accordingly, a worker can be terminated for insubordination, or for any reason, or for no reason at all (with or without notice).

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is legal unless you have a still-in-effect written employment contract which would prevent you, by its plain terms, from being terminated for this reason (e.g. which defines "insubordination," and this would not be it). Otherwise, without such a contract, you are an employee at will: you may be terminated at any time, for any reason; your employer can put any limitations or restrictions on work, or give you any instructions that it wishes; and if you violate any rules or instructions, it would be insubordination. Also, employers can forbid you from discussing certain matters, including ones that reflect badly on the company, legally.


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