Can You be Fired for Speaking to the Press?

January proved to be a particularly important month for many states this year. That was the month that new minimum wage hikes took place—in fact 20 states saw adjustments in their employees’ base earnings. On state, Arkansas, increased their minimum wage from $7.25 an hour up to $7.50 per hour.

Shanna Tippen was one of those workers in Arkansas that looked forward to the twenty-five cent wage hike. Tippen worked for the Days Inn and Suites in Pine Bluff, AR and expressed to a Washington Post reporter that she was grateful for the $2 per day raise. That nominal amount, up to $520 annually, would allow her to purchase name brand diapers for her grandson that did not irritate his skin.

The motel worker hoped in the article that she could one day find another job that wouldn’t make her feel so strapped for cash but for now, she was content staying in where she worked. Her boss, the general manager, was also quoted in the article criticizing the minimum wage hike.

Since then, another article has been published about Tippen—this time describing her termination from the motel. Tippen was allegedly fired by the general manager for speaking to the reporter at the Post. Though she did not say anything negative about her employer, it seems her employer found her involvement in the article reason enough to terminate her.

What if this had happened in California? Though it is unfortunate and very unfair, California is still an at-will state. The employer does have the ability to terminate an employee for any reason. However, if Tippen had engaged in a protected activity—maybe even complained to the reporter that her employer was not paying her minimum wage—then perhaps she could have been involved in a protected activity. At that point, she may have had a reason to pursue him legally.

Source: Washington Post