Can an employee be terminated and not know it?

A police officer contacted me, said he had gotten my address from my employer and “they” said I was about to be terminated and not to bother coming back. I called and called but no one got back to me. Later, the unemployment officer told me the employer said I had “abandoned my job” and they reportedly changed my last day as well. He said I have a case.

Steve Duggan replies:

It is very unusual for an employer to give notice of an intent to terminate through a third party, especially the police. But, there is no law I am aware of, directing employers how to give notice. I can’t tell from your question in which state you worked. But, the information from the unemployment office is troubling. Assuming you were able to go to work (i.e. not in jail) and the employer kept you from returning to work, then telling unemployment that you were fired for job abandonment suggests the real reason for termination was something else, which could be a wrongful one. You should consult with a local employment attorney about this situation.

In addition to that possible case, you may be owed certain penalties for late payment of your final wages. Some states, like California, require an employer to pay all wages due on the last day of employment if they terminate the employee, and to pay an additional penalty to the employee if they fail to do so. All other states at least require payment of final pay within a brief period after the termination, such as a few days. Several states also prohibit employers from firing employees just because of an arrest record, a criminal investigation, or even a conviction, if it’s only a misdemeanor. An employment attorney can explain these matters as well.

Posted 10-10-2017

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.