Q: Can an employer fire an employee of that employee calls the police because they suspect a crime is happening?
My sister works for a major retailer. She called the police because she saw what she thought was something suspicious outside the store. The employer is now saying she could lose her job because of the person she called the cops on can go to the news or sue about being falsely called. This hasn’t happened yet. Can they preemptively fire her if he hasn’t any damages done to him? The employer is claiming it’s a liability and their loss prevention is saying she should have called them first. The guy was technically not in the store but outside the store I’m the mall area sitting in seats that belong to the store. She thinks a crime that didn’t involve the store being affected was happening, meaning not theft or anything like that.
A: Unfortunately, almost all employment in CA is on an "at will" basis, meaning that an employer does not have to have "just cause" to terminate an employee, SO LONG AS the true reason for the termination is not one that it prohibited by law, such as reporting wage problems or discrimination based on a protected category. If sister made a good faith call to the police because she believed a crime was in progress, then she did the right thing, and the employer is not facing any civil liability to the alleged perp. BUT many managers and supervisors are not versed in the law, and may take unjustified actions against subordinates based on their own biases, insecurities and fears. Although you say she works for a "major retailer" it sounds like this is a local management problem, because major company looks at more aspects of things, such as increased security around the premises if the police visit there on calls like these. These cases are very unfair but they are also very difficult to win. Remember, the first amendment right to free speech only applies as against government interference with your rights, not private persons.
Sis should consult with a local Employee rights attorney where she works or lives.
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A: There is nothing unlawful about the employer terminating an employee for doing something that the employer believes would bring ill repute or other consequences down on the store. Employees, when employed, so not necessarily have the same rights they would if they were simply a person on the street. Employers have the right to protect the company reputation and image.
Since the purported criminal activity was not directed at your sister, the would be no public policy reason why it would be unlawful for the employer to act as it did.
Good luck to you and to your sister.
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