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I was wrongfully accused of stealing by my now ex-employer. I had previously posted onto this site about how to manage the accusation, but unfortunately, they swiftly moved to fire me within 2 days of even broaching the subject with me. Here's a link to the situation as it's much easier to link than fully explain: How to remedy a false accusation in small open office setting

It took a while for me to get a receipt from the book I was accused of stealing as the receipt was from 2016. When I was speaking with my lawyer about signing the NDA (which I ultimately signed), he informed me that it would be fine to send a letter to the now CEO since he "is the company".

I still really like the organization, and feel as though an otherwise good company has made a mistake due to the poor behavior of at least one individual. As such, I'd still very much like to have my job back, but recognize that I, at the very least, could not work for the person who was my manager and grossly mishandled the situation.

So, my question is this, is it reasonable for me to think that any action might be taken by the CEO to remedy the situation, assuming I send a message that exonerates me? It is a small company, and the CEO and I have had positive interactions before with him. What about sending something to my boss's boss? She was actually my manager for the majority of my tenure.

Up until this entire incident, I had only received glowing feedback from both my managers, as well as my peers.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Feb 14 '18 at 17:05
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    What country are you in? What's an appropriate response here may well depend on employment law in your country. – gsnedders Feb 14 '18 at 23:16
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Your former employer most likely used you to settle a possible court case with the person that rented the apartment. They probably did it without telling you and they probably made you sign an NDA agreeing to never disclose the details of the affair. That NDA might be illegal (or you're breaking it by telling us about your situation). I would cease all advice-asking online and only focus on taking the counsel of a hired attorney.

STOP BEING THEIR VICTIM

Stop thinking about working for this company ever again. They will not hesitate to sacrifice your career and credibility, time and self-image whenever it suits them.

Stop thinking whatever you have done in the past or will do in the future hurts them. They literally tried to bury you under false charges of theft, and you think about giving them a second chance. This is Stockholm Syndrome.

START TAKING BACK WHAT'S YOURS

You should be entitled to reparations of damages for being wrongfully fired. Ask your lawyer about extra damages you are entitled to. You should be entitled to reparations for damages to your image inside the work collective, time spent unemployed, money spent on attorney counseling. Keep a receipt for every expense you made in the effort of clearing your name. Have your attorney list those expenses and charge them for that sum plus interest.

Your former employer already knows what they have done. They probably expect you to sue. They will most likely try to bargain or threaten you in the near future. Don't sign anything, don't say anything, don't write anything in regards with or to them without previously consulting your lawyer.

You can't get your time back, effort or shattered self-image back. But you can make them pay for all that. And IMO you should.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 16 '18 at 22:34
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    "START TAKING BACK WHAT'S YOURS" Start with your book. – Theoriok Feb 18 '18 at 16:17
  • Your former employer most likely used you to settle a possible court case with the person that rented the apartment. Citation needed. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 6 '18 at 15:14
  • You are free to read the original story and make your mind up about it. That is just my analysis. It's most likely inaccurate or incomplete as I am not in possession of any other material than the OP's testimony. That is the best my brain could do with that limited data set. – BoboDarph Mar 6 '18 at 15:34
  • I don't understand the whole Your former employer most likely used you to settle a possible court case with the person that rented the apartment. How is firing an employee over a stolen book settle any case with anyone? The book was not stolen, the value of the book is far beyond the expenses that the whole ordeal cost (in work time, lawyers etc.). Could you please explain for us readers what could be the underlying issue? OP is probably not going to, as you correctly advised them, so I'm left curious. – Tomáš Zato Jul 23 at 14:06
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So many scams here I can scarcely keep track.

First, there is no way this ends with resumed employment. Not your fault.

Do share a copy of the receipt

I would share a copy of the receipt with the company for one simple reason: as a good-faith courtesy so the boss, so they can stop being scammed by the AirBnB host. Giving them their credit card details has "scam" written all over it and probably violates AirBnB's TOS.

I would not state that reason. I would state the reason as demanding my book back. Give them a shipping address, they owe you shipping on it.

Do not under any circumstances give the company the original receipt because they will destroy it if you do.

The big scam here is on you: Unemployment benefits.

Who knows why they wanted you to go? 90% of the time, unwilling departures are not about the employee but about business conditions - they simply cannot afford the salary. Since you say you do good work and get good reviews, this is certainly the case. Not Your Fault.

To be clear: the job was already lost, killed by economic forces.

However when you file unemployment,

  • the employer pays part of your unemployment benefits in many places including most?all? of the USA.
  • unemployment is denied if you are fired for wrongdoing.

So the usual scam is to claim an employee was fired for cause -- to evade having to pay unemployment. The unemployment office sends a form letter to the employer, and some employers claim this on every single claim. (and the UI office keeps those records).

Some states even have special employment courts where the judges do nothing but adjudicate these baloney claims. They have seen it all. Your employer has done a few things right, but not enough to hold up in court.

So this is about money. plain and simple. They are cheating you out of your entire unemployment check so they can avoid paying their share.


I'm a real crusader so if I was litigating this, I'd have a field day. I'm not an attorney, I just know how to litigate and I don't like unfairness.

Nevermind the unlawful surveillence, which the company became part of when they used it against you. Also billeting two people in the same airbnb who were not married to each other is weird.

Of course your lawyer has seen the gory details, I have not, so I yield to his judgment.

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    Thank you for your comments. I did seek out my own lawyer last week, and that lawyer is the one who said that I should sign the NDA, that I had a weak case, and the NDA could be negotiated in my favor to protect me from having anyone from the company saying anything negative about me (if I find out they do, I can sue). The company is also not contesting unemployment benefits, and I am not violating the NDA because I have not mentioned the company nor explicitly said anything negative about the company. – COGirl Feb 14 '18 at 0:38
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    @COGirl Oh! Fantastic!!! I'm editing my answer. Yes if the NDA was negotiated that is much better. The mere fact of them not contesting unemployment is veritable proof of innocence. Hope you get your book back :) – Harper Feb 14 '18 at 2:08
  • In NY companies pay "unemployment insurance" and it is a sliding scale that goes up more and more for each bracket they hit. I got written up when I managed a call center for not firing enough people when we were told to downsize the contract. Which I used to get my unemployment and severance when they eventually fired me for some bogus crap they made up. – BirdLawExpert Feb 14 '18 at 19:54
  • So if the company is not contesting unemployment benefits, what was the point of the entire operation, hidden cameras and all? – Tomáš Zato Jul 23 at 14:09
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I agree with DarkCygnus that this could be taken as a warning shot, but I want to also point out that regardless of whether you wish to work there again, and regardless of whether they will turn their attitude towards you based on this new evidence, I think it's quite important to share this evidence with the CEO.

The main reason is that I think he should have the opportunity to weigh this information to evaluate the reaction of the people who made these rash and rather strange decisions in your case. These people are still employed, and he is relying on them to fulfill certain duties. It sounds as if they failed miserably on several fronts. You may not be intending to sue (or maybe you do) but these poor decisions have left his company vulnerable, and any reasonable CEO would want to know the whole, accurate story.

The second reason is that it will likely give you a feeling of closure and vindication, and that will make it easier to move on.

The third reason is that you could likely use a reference for your next job, right? I would certainly hope that in light of your evidence, someone at that company will be willing (or even required) to share those glowing reviews you earned with potential new employers.

I do think you should retain legal counsel as at the very least I think you deserve some severance pay for these shenanigans. I can't understand why you would want to work with these people again, but if that's really your ultimate goal, I would encourage you to get legal advice to avoid missteps and protect your rights, before approaching the CEO to get re-hired.

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    For the first two parts: This does make sense from the companys perspective - for OP this would only make sense if he had a well-paid consultancy contract with them! – Daniel Feb 13 '18 at 14:17
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    Well, admittedly this advice hinges on the notion that the CEO is actually a "good guy" ;) Point #2 is totally about her though - the only part that would solely benefit the CEO/company is point #1. I do think it's a good idea for her benefit to clear up as much as she can, even in the event she does not want to sue them. – user82813 Feb 13 '18 at 15:30
  • The CEO can´t be the good guy, as he is ultimately responsible - best I can give him is incompetent. It is not the job of former employees to fix a broken company - as much as I can empathize with the desire to do so - unfortunately this road leads nowhere. I agree with you on the severance and clean record part though! – Daniel Feb 13 '18 at 15:46
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    There's no need to explicitly share anything with the CEO. When COGirl sues the company for slander and lost wages, the CEO will find out all about it. – A. I. Breveleri Feb 13 '18 at 19:35
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    Sounds like talking to the CEO would have been useful before OP was fired, but now that it's actually happened I think a lawyer would tell you not to say another word to them outside of a lawsuit, as further discussion could just give the company more ammo. – brichins Feb 13 '18 at 21:20
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This assumes the original lawyer was selected and paid for by yourself.

  1. You already got a lawyer. Now hire a lawyer to give you a second opinion. If they strongly disagree with the first, get a third as a tie breaker. Even with an NDA in place the allegations will stick (they were already shared with the office, which is almost as unprofessional as firing you), and they will cause lasting and repeated damage to your career. The NDA might even render you unable to defend you against these "rumors" as they "miraculously" reach your potential employers after calling the previous places you worked at. Over the years this will cost you tens of thousands of dollars in money, and way more than that in terms of stress - spending a couple hundred dollars on a second legal opinion is cheap in comparison.

  2. Seriously consider counseling (as in seeing a therapist). What you went through was an extremely high stress situation which was in some ways comparable to an actual hostage situation, and probably shook your fundamental trust in society. Someone mentioned Stockholm syndrome and didn't do so as a joke.

  3. Manage your expectations. Due to the politics involved, there is absolutely no way you will get your job back, or any other job at the company. The only things legal action can achieve are: A sense of justice/closure (do not underestimate the value of closure), regaining fundamental trust, monetary compensation. Writing a calm letter to a sensible CEO does have a shot of achieving the same thing without the litigation. Do not write a letter on your own, draft it together with a person who is calm, distanced from the situation, and has seen similar situations before (e.g. a lawyer). It is reasonable to hope that actions will taken by the CEO, up to and including a formal apology to you, a written warning to all involved in your dismissal, and a public statement to the employees of the company to fix your reputation - but there is no guarantee. At best the odds are 50:50.

And finally: One of the most important things you need from your lawyer (the current one AND the one who gives you the second opinion) is to be briefed about legal deadlines. Your most immediate problem is stress. If the deadlines and your finances allow it, take a week off and go hiking starting tomorrow.

The fact that you now found "proof" of your innocence is unfortunately absolutely irrelevant. They didn't need proof of your guilt, and they had overwhelming evidence of your innocence already. This wasn't a court administering justice, and we don't know what it was - could be anything from incompetence to malice. And neither incompetence nor malice admits mistakes.

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    "neither incompetence nor malice admits mistakes" -- brilliant! – mwigdahl Feb 16 '18 at 16:56
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First I suggest you should take the advice from the answers you got over there; personally I also think it's not worth pursuing a job there anymore.


Now, if you present this evidence to your former boss chances are they probably will react upon it. Doing so would be equivalent to saying "Hey, I got evidence that enables me to sue you, just wanting to let you know."

Hopefully he will try to ammend what happened to prevent the sue.

If he doesn't, then you will be needing legal counsel if you want to pursue this further, and think twice before doing so.

But, if you can prove you are not guilty and things are as you portray them, I do believe he will react upon it. Seems that luck (and justice?) is on your side on this one.

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    At this point, I actually think it would be a very poor idea to work directly with a member of the company. Since the OP has been fired, all communications really need to go through an attorney. Be sure that the company will be pulling in their own legal representatives. – DanK Feb 13 '18 at 14:25
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    I'd add that it's worth a couple hundred to have your LAWYER send this to your former CEO. The OP will NEVER work there again, but THEIR lawyer will tell them to just write the OP a 5-figure check to "call it even." Expect a confidentiality agreement to be part of it. No one would want this sort of thing about their company on the news. If they don't respond, then go to the news. You've got a great story: Proof you're innocent, and a surreptitious AirBnB recording. Wednesday night ratings are made of this stuff! – Wesley Long Feb 13 '18 at 17:03
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    @WesleyLong: If OP has evidence, expect the company to try to get a confidentiality agreement, and expect that they can refuse and still win in court. There is no reason to let a slimy company get off the hook by covering up their wrongdoing when they'd be just as liable to pay without getting to cover it up. – R.. Feb 13 '18 at 20:02
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For the sake of brevity, I will try not to duplicate the already good advice given in other answers.

Ask yourself what you want. Do you want your old job back? Do you want a promotion to leapfrog your manager? Do you want the manager who accused you fired? What about the HR rep? Do you want your reputation restored among all your colleagues and possible clients/suppliers? And if they take you back because they're too afraid to get sued, don't be afraid to demand some guarantees from them. Now is the time you have the most leverage. Don't accept your job back now, if they're able to fire you six months down the line for some other unrelated reason.

By now I'm assuming that you've provided a copy of the receipt to the CEO, if not, I think you should do that, at least. If you sue the company for defamation, but didn't do what you could with the company to mitigate (and possibly stop) future damages to your reputation, you may be held responsible for those future damages, not your employer's.

However, if you've shared a copy of the exonerating evidence with the CEO, the HR rep, and your former manager, but nothing is done to repair your reputation among your colleagues (assuming they know about the initial accusation), that's going to be on them.

So then, the questions become: Can you prove you gave a copy of that receipt to the CEO at least (should he later deny it)? Can you independently verify what your former colleagues know of the incident (if anything) and should they know something can you verify that they've subsequently received the news about your exonerating evidence as well? Do you know how some of them feel that the same exact thing could have happened to them? Don't answer my questions on here, keep these answers to yourself. I'm also assuming you've signed away your rights to contact your former colleagues. So if you contact anyone to ask those questions, make sure it's someone you trust.

And at this point, if you feel your bridges have been burned, you may want to sue your former employer.

When in doubt, sue everybody. This way, the defendants start pointing fingers at each other (instead of trying to protect the relationships they have with each other).

So I agree with Deepak (in his earlier comment), you should also sue AirBnB. But not because you'd win against AirBnB, but because by suing AirBnB, they'd point their finger squarely at your manager for going outside the safety of the platform for trying to resolve the issue and sending the money directly to a potential scammer.

In addition to that, suing AirBnB would ensure that they'd deactivate the host for the camera (or at least, I hope that's what they would do).

Of course, you should sue your employer for wrongful termination, defamation of character, breaching your privacy (and possibly peeping/sexual harassment/providing an unsafe environment). This last one is because the AirBnB location was a work supplied employee accommodation as far as you're concerned. You didn't choose it. Furthermore, there is a reason many very large employers refuse that their employees even stay at AirBnB locations in the first place (despite the huge cost savings). It's because of the liability. The liability is huge for an employer to have you stay in a stranger's house and then have something happen. And if there was any peeping going on in those premises (whether you're female or male), it's their job to address it and take the issue very seriously (which obviously, they didn't even try to).

You should also sue both your manager personally and sue the host in civil court as well (but if you can get some criminal charges filed against the host for peeping, or taking that picture, that would be a bonus too). When thinking about criminal charges for the host, contact the local DA at the location in question, possibly the State Attorney of that State, and possibly the FBI. If you don't get the initial reaction you're hoping for, emphasize the AirBnB and the peeping angles.

I am not a lawyer, my own advice may be really bad, so take everything I say with a huge grain of salt, but the advice you were given about being an "at will" employee was absolutely awful for sure. That is why some people are asking you in the comments if you mistook the company's lawyer advice for serious objective advice, because none of us can fathom that your own lawyer would have said something like that to you. I understand you're in an "At will" State and the employer can let you go for any reason, but letting you go 2 weeks after a theft allegation makes it anything but an "at will" termination.

And I understand you were pressured to sign that piece of paper to protect your professional reputation (and possibly get some severance pay and unemployment benefits) and there is no shame in that, but now that you know you can easily be pressured into signing documents, don't ever go to your former employer by yourself and don't negotiate with your former employer by yourself. If they have a document they want you to sign, take it with you to show your lawyer (or take it with you back home at least). From now on, don't ever sign anything else under pressure. Don't even enter a room with more than one person when dealing with such a difficult issue. Dealing with a superior is intimidating enough, but dealing with a superior, the CEO, and an HR representative. You were at a huge disadvantage talking to them alone. It would have been better that you hadn't signed that piece of paper, but now that you did, don't assume that the document you signed will necessarily stand up in court either.

Search for a good employment lawyer. This part is easy. Just read any local news story about wrongful termination cases successfully won that involved the wrongful accusation of theft by the terminated employee. And work your way backward. If the name/contact info of the attorney is not listed, contact the journalist who wrote the story and ask him/her for it. And don't be afraid to interview multiple lawyers.

If you can do some research on the host, any manager/employee of the host, any family member of the host, and the landlord of the place. Do that as well. The more facts you have at your fingertips, the less work your lawyer will have to do. Use Google, but don't get scammed by the internet either. County records are free (except for photocopy costs). Don't go through an internet intermediary that costs money. If you're too far from the county in question, ask a local friend to do that search for you, or try a public University with a law library, ask their librarian for help, and/or use their free access to Lexis Nexis.

  • Additional point about pressing for criminal charges against the AirBnB host: if there's a criminal conviction, including a plea, that's automatic proof in a civil case, because a civil court regards the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard (or plea) as definite proof beyond the civil standard of "preponderance of evidence". With civil responsibility established in that way, it's just a matter of determining the magnitude of damages. A friend years ago won a big suit after a guy with rich parents was convicted of beating him up. – Steve Feb 16 '18 at 8:52
  • Afterthought: the absence of a criminal conviction does not rule out a civil finding in your favor. A civil court may well decide that although the evidence did not reach the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard, it is a "preponderance of evidence". (If there's no criminal case at all, the civil court may assume that the prosecutors just didn't want to take the case.) Even a "not guilty" verdict doesn't rule out a civil victory. Recall OJ Simpson. – Steve Feb 16 '18 at 8:59

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