What are my rights if I was wrongfully terminated?

My former employer involuntarily terminated me for something that was out of my control. They also provided false and defamatory statements in my employee file. Recently, I won my unemployment appeal due to my former employer’s testimony. It was determined as fact by the adjudicator that I did not violate any policy as stated previously by the employer, and that I followed all known policies and procedures in the cashing of the check(s) in question. It was also determined as fact that in no way could I have been held liable for any losses as previously stated by the employer. I want to sue for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and I want to receive punitive damages.

Asked on November 17, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) Unless you had a written employment contract and were fired in violation of the contract, the termination was legal: without a contract, you would have been an employee at will and could be fired at any time, for any reason, even frankly stupid, unfair, or untrue ones. It may not have been a "for cause" termination, which is why you can get UI, but a not-for-cause termination is still legal if there is no contract.
2) You can sue for defamation if they are making untrue factual statements to 3rd parties, like prospective employers. Note that opinions, however, even if negative, are not defamation: saying, for example, that you were a "bad employee" is an opinion, and not something you can sue over. You could sue, however, if they say something factually untrue, like "John/Jane Doe  violated company policy about cashing checks" when you did not do that thing. Note that just having an untrue statement in your file is not something you can sue over: you can only sue over untrue statements made to other people.


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