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Last week I was fired from a 500+ person company for reasons I won't talk much about, but it was on the verge of a wrongful termination. Let's just say my old boss lied to get me fired since he didn't like me, and both him and HR handled my termination very unprofessionally.

I'm curious to see if any of these instances are normal protocol for a larger company. I've only worked for smaller companies in the past. Granted I've never gotten fired before, but I've left companies in the past with absolutely no issues.

Should I be concerned at all? I'm worried all this will hurt my chances of finding another job, especially in my current industry.

In the seven days since my termination the following has occurred:

  • Not being allowed to clean out my desk or pick up my final paycheck I was escorted off the property (normal protocol) after I was terminated, but I was not allowed to collect my things. I had to pressure HR to let me get my purse with my car keys. I wasn't allowed to pick up my paycheck from accounting. A very sweet coworker cleaned out my desk, picked up my paycheck, and met me a few days later to give me my stuff.
  • Accused of stealing company property I had a company phone, but the phone number was my personal number of 10+ years. HR said I would have to turn in the phone once I got my number sorted out. I went to the first appointment at the phone store the next day only to find out that my company refused to release my number. While I was there I received a threatening email from HR saying that I did not tell them about my company phone and that they would call the cops on me by the end of the day if I did not return the phone. I returned it within 2 hours of the email.
  • Coworkers and managers told not to contact me or to give me references An email was sent out to the company letting them know to contact my coworkers if they need something (normal protocol), but according to around 10 coworkers and managers that reached out to me in the last week my boss reached out to people either in person or over the phone letting them know he doesn't want them to talk to me professionally or personally or ever give me a reference.
  • Contractors and industry contacts being told I was fired An email was sent out to my contractors and other industry contacts letting them know I was no longer with the company (normal protocol), but in the email it was said that I was fired and to beware if they communicate with me. One contractor called my boss to confirm a new contact, and according to that contractor my boss went on a rant about me despite the contractor not asking for reasons. He said not to believe what I said, but the contractor knew me prior and told me he thought my boss was lying.
  • Coworkers and managers being told to unfriend me on LinkedIn I was working on my LinkedIn account and was going through my connections to see if I should reach out to anyone, and I noticed that all but 1 of my company connections have unfriended me on LinkedIn. Most of my coworkers unfriended me on social media (to be expected), and one told me we can never talk again (unexpected since we hung out on the weekends frequently).
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    Big companies are known for quickly firing people quickly and remorselessly, but the story you tell describes some agressive behavior on top of that. It does not seem normal. – Nino Filiu Mar 26 at 1:51
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    Coworkers and managers being told to unfriend me on LinkedIn Not normal! – jcmack Mar 26 at 2:35
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    None of this is normal, this looks like someone with a personal vendetta is out to destroy you completely. – solarflare Mar 26 at 3:56
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You need to talk with a lawyer immediately.

You need a lawyer because many of the things you mention are illegal and you may need to sue them to protect yourself. You also don't want to jeopardize your case by making mistakes during this time.

They should not have prevented you from retrieving your belongings. Normal protocol would be to escort you to your desk to retrieve them.

You should have been mailed your final check or be presented it by HR.

The requests by management in writing most likely of your coworkers can be viewed as slander by a lawyer. They should be able to subpoena them. Sounds like they are dripping with slander.

The call with the contractor should also be discussed with a lawyer.

I have never been asked to blackball someone on social media or heard it done. Not sure on the legality there but if the manager left a trail this is not good.

Do not contact the company for anything other than last check etc. let your lawyer do the talking.

Do not reach out to former coworkers either. You don’t want them to get in trouble.

I hope you got the phone number transferred back. If not your lawyer could attach value to that and if they accessed your personal contacts on the phone there may be additional liabilities.

Watch for social media posts slandering you and screen capture any that show up.

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    I would suggest that they have no contact unless it is through at lawyer. At the very least, check with your local laws on recording consent, and record all calls in accordance to that. – Malisbad Mar 26 at 1:55
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Wow. Some parts of your termination experience can be normal, but some parts sound like something very bad happened, and HR + your boss are in CYA-mode to cover the company's liability. Specifically:

Not being allowed to clean out my desk or pick up my final paycheck

This protocol can be normal, and it is industry specific. For example, if you work at the bond desk in a trading operation, simple keystrokes can cause the company large losses; so employees are escorted out immediately, and their stuff packed up and shipped to them.

Accused of stealing company property

You have knowledge of the situation: If this is about the phone, then it's a transparent attempt to trump up charges. I doubt a judge would fail to see through the ruse in a labor court, if it went to litigation. However, if there is more to the story, then that's something you need to worry about.

Coworkers and managers told not to contact me or to give me references

Now you're dealing with perceived risk of litigation. Now IANAL, but if you go and sue for wrongful termination, and you can show that coworkers/managers thought you were doing a good job, then it bolsters your case. However, I think it is a dumbass move on the part of the employer: If you show a judge that your coworkers/managers needed to be told not to give you a reference, it pretty much accomplishes much of the same goal.

Contractors and industry contacts being told I was fired

Again IANAL, and you shouldn't rely on internet advice for some things. That said: If you have a copy of a letter declaring you were fired or other evidence, save it in case you are planning to sue for wrongful termination. Usually, the right course of action for large companies, even when the employee was justly fired for cause, is to shut up. They are required to acknowledge that you worked for them + the dates, but that's pretty much it. Usually, the signal that HR is willing to only give out the bare facts tells reference-checkers that there is more to the story, but that the company doesn't want the liability of being sued for things akin to slander.

Coworkers and managers being told to unfriend me on LinkedIn

Now this is just the company being a dick, imho. Without knowing more about your situation, it looks to me they are feeling out loyalties to the company, but perhaps I am misreading it. Trying to restrict freedom-of-association maybe would fly in a courtroom (again, IANAL) but I wouldn't want to sign off on it if it were my company.


So note that the above is just one person's take on your situation. To give you my perspective: I've been a founder, and had to remove people for easy reasons (cause) and non-easy reasons (layoffs). Most of what I wrote above is extrapolating from guidance given to me in making decisions.

Good luck to you.

  • "thought you were doing a good job" Does not factor into it if they were fired due to misconduct. "Yeah, she may have stolen from the company, but the quality of her work was excellent" – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 2:11
  • By the time things are about to go in front of a judge, it is about weighing the evidence. Was the misconduct of theft only about the cell phone? where the employee had the number for over a decade? It's not too hard to envision a judge will find that was unreasonable on the part of the company, and the fact that the employees needed to be told not to give a good reference was part of the wrongful termination. So collect the evidence that speaks well for your side. A good labor lawyer will be helpful in deciding what needs presenting to the court. – JP. Mar 26 at 2:19
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It's probably time to talk to a lawyer.

Anyway, none of the conduct after you have been terminated makes it an unlawful termination.

Not being allowed to clean out my desk or pick up my final paycheck

Normal, assuming they will mail your your final pay check, and all your belongings.

Accused of stealing company property

If it's their property, they can claim it. I find it very strange about the number. If it belongs to you (as in, you pay the bills) then you shouldn't need the company to grant permission.

Coworkers and managers told not to contact me or to give me references

Not usual, probably legal, but quite problematic for the company.

Contractors and industry contacts being told I was fired

No longer working there is expected. Telling them you got fired is inappropriate. Details on why you were fired, highly inappropriate. Quite problematic for the company.

Coworkers and managers being told to unfriend me on LinkedIn

Probably not a legal request. Though really only actionable should an employee suffer due to remaining in contact with you. Quite problematic for the company.

This is very unprofessional and legally reckless behaviour of the company for the last three points. That's what I mean by problematic.

When you fire someone, the usual modus operandi is to try to limit as much as possible, any information, direct or inferred about what may have transpired.

The reason for this is to limit the legal liability of the company should they have been found to have wrongfully terminated you.

Now, what you need to decide is if you wish to go down the path of wrongful termination. If you do, your lawyer will no doubt submit those things as damages.

Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do. Once the cat is out of the bag, it's done.

If you make it clear you are engaging a lawyer, you could request they enact remidies to the last three points, asking them to make clarifying statements to employees and industry contacts, but people know the truth now, so it's kind of pointless.

  • So the truth is that the OP was doing wrong? Not the gist from the OP's post... People don't know the truth - they are being told what that manager wants to say - which could be very far from the truth.... – Solar Mike Mar 26 at 8:22
  • The truth is they got fired. That is a fact and cannot be disputed. – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 10:21

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