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In the Seinfeld episode "The Race", Duncan Meyer threatens to fire Jerry's girlfriend unless Jerry agrees to repeat a race Duncan lost to Jerry in high school. It seems to me that firing her over something like that would have Wrongful Dismissal written all over it, or is there something I'm missing?

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Yes, he could be sued, but anyone can sue anyone for just about any reason - the question is would he win in court? Most employment in the US is done on an at-will basis, meaning either party can terminate the agreement at any time for any reason, so long as that reason doesn't fall under a few, very specific categories. Wikipedia lists a few protected reasons on the page for Wrongful Dismissal:

Discrimination

Retaliation

Reporting a Violation of Law to Government Authorities

Employee's refusal to commit an illegal act

Employer is not following the company's own termination procedure

This isn't comprehensive, but Duncan's threat to fire Jerry's girlfriend because of a feud with Jerry doesn't seem to fall under any of these reasons. She could absolutely sue if fired, but it's not clear that Duncan would have actually violated any relevant employment law, so he might well win the case.

  • It's worth clarifying that "Retaliation" in this context refers to retaliation for discrimination-related issues; retaliating for e.g. personal conflicts or some imagined disrespect by firing the employee would not be wrongful dismissal in USA at-will employment states. Firing someone because you don't like how their spouse looked at you (and not providing any reason why they're fired, the whole intent of at-will is that a reason isn't needed at all unless you break specific restrictions) is not legally prohibited there. It would be wrongful dismissal in many other countries, though. – Peteris Jul 26 at 21:14

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