What constitutes a violation of civil rights in the workplace?

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What constitutes a violation of civil rights in the workplace?

My wife has been executive director of a non-profit daycare for 3 or 4 years of the last 11. She was falsely accused of mishandling accounts and stealing by certain employees. Her board found nothing against her after 1 week of administrative leave. She gave her resignation to the board, who hasn’t actually accepted it, and has in good faith been trying to tie up loose ends for the next director. Yesterday, she was told that she was causing tension in the daycare amongst the employees and was told not to come in to work for 2days! No other explanation was given.

Asked on August 19, 2011 Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The only civil rights in a workplace context is the right to not be discriminated against because of your membership in a protected category--i.e. to not suffer discrimination because of your race, sex, religion, age over 40, or disability, etc.. If your wife believes negative action was taken against her specifically on account of her race, sex, etc., she may have an employment discrimination claim--otherwise not.

If she has an employment contract, it's terms regarding grounds or process for termination may be enforced. If she does not have an employment contract, she may be fired at will (or disciplined, suspended, etc.), at any time, for any reason whatsoever that is not either discrimination (see above) or retaliation for bring bringing a protected claim (e.g. you can't be fired for using FMLA leave, reporting discrimination, or bringing an overtime claim).

If she was not discriminated against, does not have a contract, and is not being retaliated against for a protected claim, she can probably be disciplined or even terminated.

Note that if false factual accusations that damage her reputation or hurt her ability to work are made publically (e.g. to coworkers), she *may* have a defamation claim, and if she thinks this is the case, she may wish to discuss the possibility with a personal injury attorney.


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