Legally speaking does my safety come first or company policy?
July 30, 2007 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Let’s say my company has a list of 20 rules the first being, you must notify your superior of any problems. And the second stating employees must take precaution to avoid accident or injury. The other rules are not pertinent. So I do something to avoid personal injury and then my company fires me for not first notifying a supervisor. Do I have any legal rights? Does it matter that I’ve worked for the company for years and have NEVER gotten in trouble?
posted by Paleoindian to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Contact a lawyer. If you can't afford one, contact one who works on a contingency fee (they'll give you a free consultation and tell you whether you have a case or not). You've not given us enough detailed information here for anyone to be able to offer a meaningful opinion on your situation.
posted by amyms at 10:10 PM on July 30, 2007

Can you be a bit more specific and provide some better information?

Did you withhold information from your superior because if he found out he'd clock you upside the head causing you bodily harm?

But seriously, if you're not comfortable discussing the details of it here you need to talk to an employment lawyer or a employee advice line. In fact, that is a good idea anyway... Many will offer you either a free consultation or in the case of Government run advice lines, free advice on where to go next - which may very well be a lawyer.
posted by puddpunk at 10:15 PM on July 30, 2007

Where are you? Employment law varies by country and by state within the US.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:16 PM on July 30, 2007

Depends on your jurisdiction. Are you a member of a union? Call them. Even if you're not a member, they will be able to refer you to an employment lawyer.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:20 PM on July 30, 2007

As an aside, if you feel that your safety issue is something that affects the company as a whole (and isn't being taken seriously by your superiors) you can contact OSHA.
posted by amyms at 10:23 PM on July 30, 2007

Actually even more than jurisdiction, it's going to come down to exactly what you did. More details are required for sensible answers to be given. If you don't want to ask them here--I can't imagine why, just give any relevant people and companies involved aliases--once again, call the relevant union.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:34 PM on July 30, 2007

Were I you, I'd take amyms' advice and lawyer up ASAP. Giving us any more information than you already have here in the green may damage your case in the future. We may have some advice to offer, but none of us can help you get the job back, or a settlement, in anywhere near the capacity that a lawyer working personally with you can.
posted by tehloki at 12:11 AM on July 31, 2007

Yeah. Lawyer up.

Buuuut if you want the general inexperienced IANAAnything infotainment kind of advice that pretty much everyone that asks a question where the answer is pretty clearly "ask a lawyer" is looking for, we'll need more information, in the vein of what was requested above (location, details, etc.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:33 AM on July 31, 2007

Yet another vote for "ask a lawyer." There are all sorts of relevant unknown details here, particularly about (1) what state you're in, (2) what your contract says, (3) whether there's a union involved, (4) what general kind of work you perform, and (5) what exactly happened in the incident you're asking about. A lawyer will know how all of those fit together; we don't. We here can speculate about employment laws where you are, but there's so much state-to-state variation over small matters that you need someone on the ground there with you to tell you what your rights are there.
posted by grimmelm at 6:10 AM on July 31, 2007

Yet another vote for ask a lawyer for all the reasons that grimmelm said, plus you've given absolutely no details what it was you did to avoid personal injury and how it might have contradicted the first rule. There are scenarios and jurisdictions where you're in the right, and scenarios and jurisdictions where you're in the wrong.
posted by commander_cool at 10:02 AM on July 31, 2007

Although a lawyer is the best advice, be aware that most of the US falls under "work at will" rules, which essentially means that they can fire you at any time, for any reason, other than a few (race, religion, national origin, etc.) prohibited by law. If they told you they fired you because they didn't like you shirt or your haircut that would be legal in may place. Most of the lawyers I know say wrongful termination cases are hard to win and generally a waste of time, so unless you are willing to shell out big bucks up front, it might be hard to even find a lawyer.
posted by TedW at 10:02 AM on July 31, 2007

If the example were as straightforward as the contradiction you've listed, where honoring not just the listed rules but the order they're in was the cause of the employer's offense, I'd be very skeptical. Especially if obeying the rules would cause you an injury which would likely be a liability for the employer as well.

If you want to fight, by all means listen to the advice above to get a lawyer. But the best case is that a lawyer gets you back a job at a company that will now be resentful of you. Anytime a company starts being a stickler for enforcing picky rules like that (or silly things like the order in which you follow rules), I think of it as a pretense for wanting to let go of an employee and finding the most convenient procedural justification for doing so.

And really, who wants to work at some place where they're not wanted? Who wants to work some place that arbitrarily enforces absurd procedures?
posted by anildash at 4:35 PM on July 31, 2007

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