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Can I collect unemployment if I have been fired for gossiping in the workplace?

by Missing My Job
(Indiana)

A few weeks ago, I was fired for supposively "gossiping" in my office. I worked for an elderly assisted living home as a receptionist. Our senior marketing director all of a sudden was no longer with my company. Because I was the receptionist and fielded calls, it was important for me to know that this individual was no longer with the company and where to direct her incoming calls.


Shortly after her leaving, the Executive Director came to me and stated "She is no longer with the company. Please direct all of her calls to my office."

Her absence was obvious, and thus had the office talking. One of the managers in my workplace had spoken with the laid off/fired individual the night that she was laid off/fired, and shared this information with many of the managers in our office. No one was written up or fired.

Two days after the Marketing Director was laid off/fired, I stated to a manager I worked closely with that she was "no longer with the company." I exactly quoted what was told to me by our Executive Director, and did not think anything of the situation. The next day, I was fired for this supposive gossip.

I had been with the company three years, and I had once before been written up for gossiping. I had stated something that someone had told me in confidence, however, I did not know it was in confidence. Regardless, I took my written warning and straightened up my behavior. Obviously, in these times, I would never have put my job in danger. All of my yearly reviews were excellent. The Office Manager always stated how I did more than was asked and got along with everyone and that I caused no trouble at all.

I applied for unemployment, ready to fight if denied. I was sent my denial letter, and obviously, I have chosen to appeal. My letter states that I was "discharged for just cause; a knowing violation of a reasonable and uniformly enforced policy."

My issue is that I was not treated fairly in this case. Yes, I do understand and take full responsiblity for the first incident that occured that I was written up for. However, I was never verbally warned any, just written up. I don't deny that, and I agree - I was wrong. However, in 3 years at my company, I had worked for 4 Executive Directors, and rules changed constantly. Under the Executive Director that terminated me, he held several meetings with the Managers (i.e. anyone BUT hourly workers) and verbally warned them several times about gossiping in the workplace. I do not feel by saying someone was no longer with the company was gossiping. No one else had been fired for gossiping in the office.

After I was fired, a family member of a resident that lived in our facility called me and stated she spoke with the Executive Director and said that she missed me being around. The Executive Director replied "Well, there is more to the story than you know." She then had to speak with the Office Manager for unrelated reasons, and the Office Manager greeted her by saying, "Well, I've heard you been talking to the Executive Director about our former receptionist." The family member also stated that the Executive Director had a meeting with all of the residents living in the facility and told them that I had moved on from the company on my own accord. I've asked her to help me in my appeal for unemployment, but she feels that her mother could be mistreated in the facility because of her standing up for me in my fight. I don't understand how this situation is not gossiping, but mine was.

I am appealing the unemployment denial, but because of this family member not wanting to pin herself to the situation, do you think I even stand a chance? I know at this point, it's my story verses my former employer's.

The real kicker? There will be a new Executive Director at my company who will more than likely be sent to the hearing who has never met me and who doesn't know the story.

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Denied
by: Missing My Job

Hi Chris,

Well, I ended up being denied by the ALJ. She stated in her letter that the 11 "warnings" against me were justified and that I knew of each one of them, which again, is a lie.

I guess my frustration is how can I prove these are lies? Only 2 warnings - my first and my termination - were ever presented to me. I can't ask any of my former co-workers whom are still friends to be my witnesses because they have been told by the ED to not speak to me. In fact, the night of my hearing, I got a call from a former manager that state she KNEW of my hearing because everyone spoke about it.

I do admit that I did tell one of the manager's about the girl no longer being with the company. However, another manager claimed during my hearing and in a letter that I told her. The judge said she'd only use the person I told the "gossip" to if she needed a rebuttle.

The woman I told NEVER even spoke at the hearing.

Part of me wants to appeal, and the other part of me just wants to be done with the company. Unfortunately, times are tough and I really do need the benefits to provide for my family. However, I am up against a bunch of liars and an ED who even admitted policies changed from ED to ED. I feel like I'm backed against a wall. They have all of these supposive "communication logs" that were never presented to me, and that I had never even seen or known I was verbally warned until I received the packet for the hearing.

Here's to hoping I find a new and better job with people who treat me well!

Thanks again for all your help and advice.



Sorry to hear it. There might be a basis for an appeal, but the next appeal is an entirely different kind of appeal.

It probably would not do any good because you had subpoena rights .. irregardless of what the employer told people about talking to you .. they can't stop them from appearing by order of a subpoena. It's irrelevant now because you had that right and didn't exercise it.




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Had the hearing
by: Missing My Job

Chris,

I am in Indiana.

The judge went over every document that my former employer submitted. I had only been written up twice in my tenure at my company - one was a written warning and the other was my termination. These were the only two things I was ever made aware of.

In addition to my verbal warning and my termination papers, they included 11 "verbal" warnings that I had received for various things. They also tried to include one of my yearly reviews as a "verbal warning." In my packet of papers I sent in, I also sent in all of my yearly reviews. The judge even asked if I had supposively received 11 "verbal warnings", why was I still employed?

My former boss stated that discipline policies were different under each Executive Director and he felt that he should give every employee a chance.

So, it's a wait and see game now until the end of the week. The judge said I should know something by then. Thanks for such an informative website - I wouldn't have made it through without it!



You be sure to update us with the decision.

Different discipline policies under each ED?? that's a new one. Really helps the employer establish that you were aware of policy and should have realized your job was in jeopardy .. eh?

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Thanks Chris!
by: Missing my Job

I really appreciate all the advise and help. My hearing is tomorrow, and I believe I've gotten a great case built in my favor. There's actually a letter written by a former co-worker in my former employer's packet about me that was sent to the judge that states that a manager was gossiping about another manager at lunch after being warned not to - and nothing happened!

Maybe it's just me, but I find it funny that someone would be so careless to let someone slip that in.

Thanks again so much! Cross your fingers for me!


Can't remember what state you're in, but if that document was a mistake and the employer didn't intend to use it .. remember that documents still need to be submitted at the hearing if they want to use them or get testimony for them. Procedures vary slightly, but this is a point that I think is relevant to raise.

If the employer ignores that document and it's in the packet .. you can also use it to your advantage, but understand you may need to submit it into the record.

Chris

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Suggestion reinforcement
by: Chris - (webmaster:)

My suggestion is to make the primary focus on the lack of maliciousness .. since you were quoting the ED and the lack of uniformity in enforcement of this very broad rule which requires interpretation as to maliciousness.

If the statement you made to this manager was in response to a DIRECT QUESTION from the manager .. and your response was a direct quote from what the ED told you ... how is that gossiping??

Narrow the focus to the final incident. Let the employer bring up the past .. to which you can say .. you learned your lesson .. it was a long time ago and there has been no other occurences since .. until now, and this time you the employer's judgment was not in keeping with their own written policy.

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Answers
by: Missing My Job

Chris,

Thanks for the response. Below are the answers to your questions.

What's the written rule say?

The only written rule about gossiping in my employee handbook is that "spreading or contributing to malicious gossip or rumors regarding employees, residents, visitors or any party associated or doing business with the company may result in disciplinary action, including suspension, demotion or termination of employment." I absolutely do not believe I was malicious, or even saying anything intentional.



What's the progressive discipline policy?

My employee handbook states that the company "does not have a formal progressive discipline policy requiring a set number of warnings or counseling sessions. Instead, each case is considered based on its own facts."

Were you fired for what you said to staff only .. or were you repeating it to residents.

I was only fired for what I said to one staff member - a manager. She in turn went and told another manager and then went and told the ED what I said to her. I did not repeat anything to the residents.

What kind of place did you work that a family member fears retaliation of a parent through abuse???

I agree - it saddened me to think a family member felt like her mother would suffer for her actions. It's a very "clique-y" and gossiping office. The various managers all protect each other, with the exception of one manager. The ED and the other managers did not even include her in the morning meeting where they discussed the events of the day - and the fact that I was being terminated. Out of the 4 EDs that I worked for, only one of them ever considered me a vital part of the team. In fact, the ED that hired me told me a few months after I was hired that the Office Manager did not like me and did not want to hire me - in front of the Office Manager. Many times, the Office Manager freely told everyone at lunch (all the employees always ate lunch at the same time in the dining room) what residents were having payment problems, how far behind they were on rent, and other confidential matters. However, many situations I found myself in were no-win situations for me - I would have suffered the consequences regardless. The family member said she is already having to go check up on her mother daily to make sure she goes down for her meals, gets to participate in activities, etc.

Thanks so much for you help and advice. I truly appreciate it.

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If you can show that it wasn't willful misconduct.
by: Chris

Hi,

First, quit admitting you were wrong to do what you did. If you think you're wrong .. so will everyone else .. quit apologizing and start focusing on how you will prove that "what you said" that the employer considers gossip .. was a statement based upon information provided to you by the ED and that what you said is not willful misconduct, but what any reasonable person would do if asked a question.

What's the written rule say? What's the progressive discipline policy? Were you fired for what you said to staff only .. or were you repeating it to residents.

What kind of place did you work that a family member fears retaliation of a parent through abuse???

If the ED that fires you is not the witness for the hearing and they only send the new one to testify .. his testimony is only hearsay .. in fact if I were advising the employer .. I'd want the person who you supposedly gossiped to as a witness for the hearing otherwise it's still hearsay.

Chris


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