Fired For Using My Company’s Email During Non-Work Hours: Or Was There More to the Story?

Question:

I’m an outside salesperson. Customers regularly email me in the evenings, and I respond to their emails immediately. I also text and email others on our sales and service teams with leads and questions, even though it’s after hours.

This morning I got fired.

Apparently, there’s a policy that employees may not use company-provided email during non-work hours. asked my manager exactly what “non-work” hours are for me, and he said, “after five.” I said, “You email after five and I’ve responded to your emails after five for years.” He didn’t say anything else after that.

I didn’t know about this policy, and it’s never been enforced. I have a hunch there are others in our company who email after five, and I’m the only one who’s been fired.

I think the real problem is that I talked about the fact that none of us are getting our promised raises.

I have a copy of the policy, and it states that the reason the policy exists is to protect confidential company information. Is this legal? Who do I take my complaint to?

Answer:

Although your company has a right to enforce their policies, you may also be able to claim retaliation and wrongful termination for a violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The good faith doctrine refers to the unwritten mutual promise that employers and employees treat each other fairly.

In your situation, you’ve said you were fired under a policy that’s never been enforced and that your manager also violated. Employers that terminate employees based on unenforced and unfairly applied policies, which one or more managers also violate, risk losing wrongful termination lawsuits based on “unfairness.”

If you were targeted because you protested the lack of a promised raise, you may have a good case for claiming a retaliatory wrongful termination due to a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. You may want to find an attorney, give them all the facts, including the ones you haven’t put in the Ask A Coach section, and pay them for a sixty-to-ninety-minute consult. Good luck.  

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4 thoughts on “Fired For Using My Company’s Email During Non-Work Hours: Or Was There More to the Story?

  1. “You may want to find an attorney, give them all the facts, including the ones you haven’t put in the Ask A Coach section”

    I always loved Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of The Story”. Likely the most important aspect of His complaint…….

  2. I look at this as customer service, pure plain and simple. I cannot even imagine a company that mandates unresponsiveness. One of my employers had some products manufactured in China (under close direct supervision and monitoring unless you want crap produced) and customers on the East Coast of the USA. There were two hours of the day when neither of them were “at work” and ignoring either of them could have proven costly!

    1. Joe, completely agreed. The reason for firing felt fishy & as the earlier responder noted, I wonder what the rest of the story involved.

  3. Great insights! And this one is may favorite: “Employers that terminate employees based on unenforced and unfairly applied policies, which one or more managers also violate, risk losing wrongful termination lawsuits based on “unfairness.””

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