Can I sue my son’s past employer for damages?

I believe my son was wrongfully terminated from a job with a local government agency. That termination led to an emotional breadown for my son which resulted in the breakup of his marriage. He was, of course, denied government assistance so I had to care for him in my home which resulted in great financial and emotional costs to me. Can I sue my son’s past employer for my damages?

Asked on June 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

No, you would almost certainly not have a legal claim, unfortunately.

While you may believe that the termination led to your son's emotional breakdown and the break-up of his marriage. an employer would not be responsible for that, even if the termination was illegal (see below). That's because somone is only responsible for the reasonably foreseeable and predictable consequences of his/her/its actions, and emotional breakdowns and marital breakups are not sufficiently foreseeable and predictable as the consequences of termination of employment as to justify liability.

Furthermore, someone is only responsible for consequences which are fairly directly, or "proximally," caused by their actions, and are not due to the choices of another person. You chose to take in your son--if he was an adult (which he presumably was) you were under no legal obligation to do this. You may not hold his former employer liable for your choices.

Finally, bear in mind that unless your son had an employment contract which was violated by the manor in which he was terminated, or unless he can show that he was the victim of illegal discrimination (e.g. discrimation against him based on his race, religion, age over 40, sex, or disability), his termination was probably legal in the first place. In the absence of employment contracts, employers have enormous discretion or freedom to terminate employees.


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