California Wrongful Termination So Wrong
Robert (not his real name) worked for three years as a service technician for a car dealership. He was paid a flat rate, something like commission. He teamed up with another technician and they had the highest hours of production. “If we did the job in 30 minutes we would still get paid for an hour’s work,” Robert explains. “We worked really well together and we were efficient.”
So efficient were they that the boss thought it was physically impossible to complete the allocated work on a vehicle in that amount of time. “We completed one job on Monday, handed over the paperwork and left after finishing our shift,” he says. “On Tuesday we worked only half a day and the manager called us into the office before we left. He told us there was no way we could have finished the job. But the customer didn’t complain; in fact, I never had a customer complain that we didn’t finish the job, ever.
“We worked a full day Wednesday stewing over whether we would get fired or not. By Thursday they brought us into the office. They gave us our final checks but made us sign the pink slip first - it stated that we were terminated for falsification of documents and flagging hours on repair orders and charging customers on work not performed.”
In other words, they were accused of stealing - up-selling to a customer and not completing the job. “For example, a vehicle would need an oil change. We were responsible for checking the vehicle and giving our report to the service manager, who would in turn talk to the customer and sell the work based on our recommendations. Perhaps the car needed a power steering flush or it was due for transmission service. But this service manager decided that we couldn’t do this up-sell in such a short period of time. He basically screwed us.”
Sounds like the dark ages: guilty until proven innocent. The dealership didn’t have any evidence to back up the accusation: It didn’t have a video camera and not one customer complaint. Robert doesn’t even think they checked the vehicle in question after they left work on Monday. “Unless you take a scope and check the fuel injectors there is no way of telling whether the work was done and I know they didn’t do that,” he says.
Robert can only surmise that they were fired because the guy he worked with was written up more than a few times over the years. “For instance, he almost got into a fistfight with the service advisor - the guy who I believe instigated our wrongful termination,” says Robert. “They both got written up for misconduct but I had never been written up. Instead I got a $3 per hour raise just a few months ago so I was making $19 per hour.
“And just a week before I was fired, the service manager told me how he appreciated all the hard work I do, ‘busting my ass.’ But when we were reprimanded, he treated us like jerks. He is the epitome of company man. He wasn’t around when we worked 6-day shifts; when we came into work on our days off to finish jobs. He had no idea how much I bled for this place.”
After he was wrongfully terminated, Robert was concerned about whether he would qualify for unemployment benefits so he called the manager, who said he could just appeal it. Robert was fired seven weeks ago and still doesn’t know if he can collect. And he hasn’t found another job.
“I have applied for work at numerous places but when a potential employer phones my former employer and finds out I was terminated, guess what - they aren’t going to hire me. I worked seven years in the automotive industry and I get shafted. I am only 30 years old and the only job experience I have is in this business. I have $2 in my bank account and my credit cards are maxed out. I’m not sure if an attorney can help so maybe it’s time I have a career change.”