Fell on uneven flooring and employer terminated me, saying I was on drugs?
(Phoenix, AZ, USA)
I am a 77-year old female who worked at a large consignment store. A few months ago, while pushing a clothes rack I tripped on uneven flooring, with three witnesses seeing the incident. I was not seriously injured, but at my age I felt I should ask my employer for an injury report in case later it became an issue.
She told me they don't have any such thing. I had to remind her of the OSHA sheet hanging in the breakroom, upon which her sister, also one of the store owners, said "yes, we do, I will get it for you." I never filed a claim because no additional problems ever arose, but I could tell the owners were not happy for me asking for the injury report.
Fast forward 2 months, after returning from vacation, I was informed by my boss that there were no openings for me at the time, but she would try to fit me in somewhere. It was 2 weeks and I still hadn't heard anything.
I then got a call from the scheduling manager who told me that she no longer worked at the store. She said she couldn't divulge the details.
Just three days ago, I went to my place of employment and talked to one of the owners about my work situation, and when I was going to be given hours. She then informed me that she had heard rumors that I was on drugs and that was the reason I tripped and fell with the clothes rack.
I was completely blind-sided by this unfounded accusation and defamation of character. I told her that the only 3 "drugs" I am on are prescription, and they in no way impair my working ability and are the same ones I've been taking since being employed with them (over 10 years ago). I also said I would be happy to take a drug test!
She then ushered me into her office and said that she would let me know within 2 weeks about putting me on the schedule. I got a call today saying she didn't want me coming back because I had told other employees that she accused me of taking drugs (which she did) and that I called her a slut (which I never did - that is not a word I use).
I am distraught. I lost my husband 5 years ago and this job and the employees I work with are my family. I just can't believe what the owner is accusing me of!
I love my job and I want it back. I was wrongfully terminated. What are my options or recourse? Please help. I have no idea what to do, but I do know I can't just let this go. Thank you for any perspective you can give.
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ANSWER for "Fell on uneven flooring and employer terminated me, saying I was on drugs?":
Rogene (Phoenix, AZ, USA):
Unless you had a written agreement prohibiting your termination without just cause, or without a right to appeal, you are considered an "at-will" employee. As such, your employment may be terminated at any time, and for just about any reason.
There is an exception...
You can not be terminated exclusively based on your age. If you have proof your employment was terminated as a direct result of your age, you may have the basis of a discrimination lawsuit. From the facts you present, there doesn't seem to by any evidence of age discrimination.
When it comes to defamation, "truth is an absolute defense." This means the statements made by the owners about your having taken drugs, and that the drugs caused you to trip and fall, were not defamatory.
You were admittedly on drugs, albeit prescription drugs. In the alternative, if the owners said you were on illegal drugs, those statememts would likely have been the basis of a defamation claim.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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