It’s not uncommon for employer to change the story about why they terminated an employee. We have seen over and over how the employer would tell the employee that he is being laid off because the employer’s business needs have changed, and later – they challenge that employee’s unemployment benefits application, arguing for the first time that the reason for termination was some kind of serious violation such as theft, insubordination or another kind of company policy violation.
The question often arises whether that fact alone that the employer all of a sudden came up with new and fabricated reasons for termination supports a claim for discrimination or wrongful termination. Generally, the answer is no. Switching a story or lying about the reasons for firing is not against the law. Lying is not the same as discriminating or retaliating.
However, the fact that the employer changed the termination reasons can be helpful when it is available in addition to some other evidence that suggests that the reason for termination was likely discriminatory. For instance, suppose you have been working for a company for ten years and you generally have been a good worker. Then, you suffer an on the job injury and file a workers comp claim. A month later you receive some kind of warning or PIP, like never before, and then you are terminated for poor performance. Later, when you apply for unemployment, or when you file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer, they all of a sudden claim that among other things you have also been terminated for stealing or sleeping on the job or some other reason that they have never mentioned before.
This switching stories back and forth in addition to timing of your termination relative to filing a workers comp claim can be very helpful in having a stronger case of disability discrimination, retaliation for filing a workers comp claim and proving wrongful termination.