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Bryant Whitten, LLP

Mom fired for selling daughter's Girl Scout cookies at work

It's something many California parents undoubtedly have done: sell a few boxes of their daughters' Girl Scout cookies. But for one mother, the effort to help her daughter earn badges and raise money for trips resulted in the loss of her job. The woman, who worked for 28 years on the campus of American University, was fired from her job at a campus dining room in February for selling cookies to customers. According to the woman's employer, the cookie sales constituted the solicitation and operation of a personal cash business during work hours, which is a violation of company policy. Although the woman said she kept the cookies off to the side and sold them only to customers who asked about them, the employer said her actions amounted to gross misconduct.

Whether the woman's dismissal constitutes a wrongful termination is unclear. Under the doctrine of employment-at-will, which applies in California and across the United States, an employer generally does not need to state a reason for firing an employee. 

There are exceptions to employment-at-will that potentially may apply in this case. An employer may not fire an employee for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for engaging in some protected activity, like reporting unlawful discrimination, filing a workers' compensation claim, taking leave, or reporting unsafe work conditions. If the woman has evidence that the employer's stated reason for terminating her was a pretext for one of these unlawful reasons, she may have a claim for wrongful termination. For example, if the woman can show other employees also sold cookies on the job but were not fired, the employer may have been using the policy violation as an excuse to fire her for an illegal reason.

The woman may benefit by consulting with a knowledgeable wrongful termination attorney. An attorney can review all the facts surrounding an employee's dismissal for evidence of pretext or an illegal motive.

Source: FOX 6 WBRC, "Cookie crumbles wrong way for Girl Scout mom," March 21, 2013 

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