What to do if I was robbed and then fired for gross misconduct?

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What to do if I was robbed and then fired for gross misconduct?

I was employed there for 10 months. 3 weeks ago as I was waiting at a stoplight, my trailer was broken into and I was approached by a young man with a gun. After calling 911 as well as my company claims department and security, I was told that an investigation would take place 2 weeks later, I drove for 11 hours and then was told to take the truck to one of our terminals for a conference call with company security. As a driver I legally need to log my hours on duty and off duty. 14 hours is maximum out of 24 to be on duty. After all of those hours of driving I was brought into a room and told to get security on the phone for a conference call. It was just me and a manager present and who told me to lock the door. For the next 8 hours I was interrogated and even allowed to get a drink of water or make a phone call to my lawyer. I was asked hundreds of questions relating to the robbery. When it was confirmed that I was in fact robbed and had something to do with it, I was told that I needed to sign a statement stating that I was untruthful about the suspects having a weapon and that this constituted gross misconduct on my behalf. I stated that I did not agree with the statement I was provided. After 8 hours of interrogation, I caved in and signed out of frustration, thirst and tiredness. The next day I was fired. I have been an exemplary employee without a single problem and this seemed unfair especially when told that if I sign the document, my job would be safe, “the statement is just so we can move on with our investigation, there is no need to worry about your job, you are the victim here”.

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The first question is, did you have an employment contract? If you did not (which also means no union agreement), you were an employee at will. As an employee at will, you could be fired at any time, for any reason--including for the bad luck of being robbed, or just because a supervisor didn't like you or had a bad day. Therefore, they did not need to sign anything in order to fire you. Without a contract, it is almost certain that they could fire you without penalty.

Second, you should probably consult with an attorney, since what you signed might constitute grounds for the employer to either try to sue you or press charges, on the grounds that you actually were in collusion with the criminals (after all, you admitted to lying about what happened).

Third, for future reference, bear in mind that your employer is not the police, and their security staff are not the police either--you had the right to not talk to them, or to leave the interrogation at any time, or to call anyone you liked, or to get a drink of water, etc. The worst they could do is fire you, which they could do anyway; if they otherwise tried to physically keep you against your will, they'd be kidnapping you and committing a crime. This also means that it will be hard to claim you were coerced into signing what you did, since you had the power to leave at any time.


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