SW Legal Educational Publishing

Dismissal for Good Cause Need Not Include Legal Finding of Guilt for Alleged Misconduct
Description Manager, not to be dismissed except for "good cause," was fired after charges of sexual harassment were investigated. His wrongful dismissal suit is to be viewed from whether the employer acted in good faith, not whether the misconduct actually occurred.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Wrongful Discharge, Good Cause, Misconduct
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Rollins hired Cotran for a management position under an implied agreement that he would not be dismissed except for good cause. Five years later, two employees told the firm's human resource director that Cotran had sexually harassed them. Cotran did not respond to the allegations, which were investigated. Firm decided the allegations appeared to be true and fired Cotran. He sued the firm for wrongful dismissal since the allegations, which he denied, had not been proven in court, hence the employer did not have good cause. Jury found for Cotran; appeals court reversed in favor of employer; Cotran appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Affirmed. The rule of the jury in such cases is not to decide whether the misconduct occurred, its rule is to decide whether the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the misconduct occurred and otherwise acted fairly, or, in other words, whether the employer acted with a fair and honest cause or reason, regulated by good faith.
Citation Cotran v. Rollins Hudig Hall International, Inc., 69 Cal.Rptr.2d 900 (Sup. Ct., Calif., 1998)

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