Q: Employer falsely accused me of stealing and threatened me with jail time. I quit the next day. Can I seek damages?
I went to work on my day off to eat at the company restaurant. After seated, security guard said I was on camera stealing purses. They said don’t leave and that they are calling the authorities. They immediately came back and said they made a mistake and said I was free to go. I quit because I was traumatized and scared to go back. I thought I could be falsely accused again and not let go this time. I feared for my safety. I also thought the accusation would damage my reputation at work and lead to a hostile work environment. Do I have a case?
A: Probably not. It was not unlawful to detain you for a short while as they looked at the video and determine you were not the suspect. Your quitting before you ever faced what you feared, i.e., a hostile work environment, probably left you without any legal claim. Even if there was some hostility because they continued to suspect you, that would not be unlawful. The vast majority of hostile work environments are not unlawful.
As to your concern that your reputation at work was damaged, you did not give it a chance to find out if, in fact, that happened.
Good luck to you.
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