Can I be fired for criticizing my supervisor’s behavior using work email?

UPDATED: Dec 3, 2011

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Can I be fired for criticizing my supervisor’s behavior using work email?

I was asked to review a co-worker’s imprest records for fraud. I sent an email to my supervisor telling them that I thought the employee was being unfairly harassed. I used my employer’s email account. Is this reason for dismissal?

Asked on December 3, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is absolutely grounds for dismissal, unfortunately, unless you have an employment contract which protects your employment in some way (such as by limiting the grounds for which you could be fired; or providing some process which must be followed for discpline or termination). That's because without an employment contract, you are an employee at will and may be terminated at any time, for any reason, such as for complaining about or criticizing a supervisor. There are a few grounds for complaint that would not provide a basis for termination; e.g.--

* If you complained about sex, racial, religious, age-based, or disabilty-based discrimination;

* If you complained about not getting overtime, or being allowed to take FMLA leave;

* If you complained about criminal activity by the company;

--but apart from these and a very small number of other protected grounds for complaint, if you complain or criticize, you may be fired.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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