Am I fired or did I quit?

I was asked to do an illegal act at work and refused to do so. Then afterwards I refused to do my final task of the day and went home. The boss says I’m not fired and that I quit; I have not quit. I called the owner of the company to discuss this and after about 10 minutes on the phone it was apparent that he doesn’t care for his employees. I wanted to discuss this issue and my concerns and he just hung up on me. Who would I report this to? And am I fired?

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If the act you refused to do (the final task you refused to do, before going home) was not itself illegal and you also left early, then it may be that you would be deemed to have quit--your position would be much stronger if you had done the non-illegal act and not left. Refusing to do a legal task and leaving the workplace can be taken as an expression of an intent to resign or quit.

If the act you refused to do was illegal, however, then you would have been fired fired--and improperly fired at that--for refusing to do it; employees may not be required to do anything against the law, and they may not be lawfully terminated for refusing to break the law.

In either event, if there was anything illegal going on, you should report it. You could report it to an agency with jurisdication over that subject matter (e.g. if was dumping chemicals illegally, to the EPA or the state department of envirnomental protection; if it was tax fraud, to the IRS or state taxing authorities), or, if in doubt, the state Attorney General's Office is always a good choice.

However, first you should consult with an employment law attorney, who can evaluate the exact circumstances so as to determine whether you would likely be deemed to have quit or been fired, and if fired, whether properly or not; and also advise you on what actions to take and what to say that will best position you to possibly recover compensation. Good luck.

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