Can an employer fire you after a second policy offense, if the first offense was4 years ago?

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Can an employer fire you after a second policy offense, if the first offense was4 years ago?

About 2weeks ago I was let go from my jo, as an EMT due to an expired certification. I thought my certification expired later than what it did. My employer stated that it is not their responsibility for keeping track of expiration dates. I was then suspended for 1 day, renewed the certification, sent the updated cert via phone, and was then let go via text message. When I called the company they stated it was my second offense (my first being 4 years ago); I let my ambulance driver’s license (ADL) expire. The owner told me that it was documented at that time that I would be “suspended at a later shift”. No where was it documented on which shift I was suspended or is there a written document with my signature stating I was suspended at that time. I disputed it with the owner and was told that it was enough to let me go as a liability. Finally, I remember the company had a policy stating; “All employee Disciplinary Actions should be purged from the Personnel Files after twelve (12) months from the date of the action”. With this policy, and the fact that there is 4 years between offenses, is it OK for them to use this against me? Also, if there is no document in the employee handbook that states the company takes no responsibility for keeping track of expiration dates, could this fault be split?

Asked on April 7, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The first question--and most important--is, did you have an employment contract? If you did not, you are an employee at will. As the term implies, an employee at will may be terminated at any time, for any reason whatsoever. So regardless of how long ago the prior violation or infraction was, in the absence of an employment contract, your employer may elect to terminate you (with the restriction that you can't be fired because of race, sex, religion, disability, age over 40, etc.). Employees at will have pretty much no protection from termination.

If you did have an employment contract and it addressed either the process or the grounds for termination, it's terms and conditions must be honored.


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