Can I be terminated while off the clock for a code of conduct violation?

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Can I be terminated while off the clock for a code of conduct violation?

I am a hard worker. I’ve worked at my employer for the last 1 1/2 years. The first 3 months were rocky and I got my limit of coachings for being unprofessional in the sense of like being late to work and making jokes that other associates didn’t like. However, shortly afterward, I adapted and improved and have not been late in over a year, as well as have not gotten any coachings, etc. Today, I came into work and before I clocked in I walked to my locker to grab things that I needed to start the day. An associate said something to me and I didn’t know what she said, so I reacted by flipping her off. Obviously, that was dumb but the people I hang around typically say things and I just naturally flip them off just out of a poor judgement reflex. So outside of judging my poor character, is it legal for me to be terminated for something I did off the clock? I clocked in shortly afterwards and then walked to where I needed to be and was pulled into the manager’s office and was told that I was being terminated. I handed my badge, equipment, and walked out. Was I wrongfully terminated?

Asked on October 21, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Uness you were covered under an employment contract or union agreement, then you were an "at will" worker. This means that your former employer was free to discharge you as it best deemed appropriate. The fact is that you could have been terminated for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice. Bottom line, a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of actionable discrimination).


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