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Wrongfully Fired from Internship

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Krysiarose

New member
What is the name of your state? New Mexico

I am a behavioral health online student at a state college in another city, an older student switching careers. The college does not assist students with finding internships due to being online and global; the students must find their own internships and the university does not check or approve any agencies. I found an internship at a small for-profit counseling business owned by a husband and wife. I was interviewed by the wife and thought all was well until I met the husband. He was a workplace bully to everyone who worked under him; interns, contracted counselors, office employees and clients (his clients were court mandated, not paying clients). I was bullied at my maintenance job, an attorney helped me stop that situation, and I couldn’t believe I was dealing with another bully – at a counseling agency. His wife was okay (and was my supervisor per agreement with the university). Just after midterms, she gave me a good review but for some reason that set her husband off, and he fired me. Being his wife, she had to go along with his decision. The university was no help; the adjunct professor, the adviser, and the dean were not equipped to assist a student who was having problems with an internship and had nothing in place for this type of situation. The husband wrote a false letter stating that we had “parted under mutual agreement”. Because he fired me, there was no agreement – I was told I was fired, to leave, and not to return. I asked for a withdrawal grade due to the unusual circumstances. The student advocate told me that I would have to write a letter stating that the entire situation was my fault, that I was entirely responsible for what happened, and outline what I was going to do to rectify my shortcomings – if I wanted to have any hope of a withdrawal grade. My coworkers at my regular job thought that I was being treated terribly by my university but I didn’t want the F on my transcript so I wrote a letter explaining that I had just been through a workplace bullying situation, was not equipped to deal with another one so soon after the first situation was rectified, and that I would be receiving counseling to learn to deal with such situations in the future. I was given a W on my transcript. My other nine courses I had a 4.0 GPA, no issues.

I was angry at this whole fiasco and went to a rival university to ask them for advice on how they would have handled the situation, did I do anything wrong, and that university could not believe what I had to do. The rival university vets and approves all agencies before a student can work under them, to ensure the agencies can meet the university and other required standards. They have a special adviser to help a student throughout the internship, and they said that they would never have let a student getting fired – they would have been involved long before then. I also discovered that the rival university had ‘blacklisted’ the agency I was fired from, due to abuse of social work and counseling students who lodged a formal complaint as a group! I decided to change schools; I was accepted as a transfer student to the new university, all my credits transferred, and I will complete my degree at the new university.

I don’t know if it is worth it to write a letter to the old university stating that I am angry about how I was treated throughout the situation, at their lack of ability in being able to assist students who happen to get into a problematic agency, and that I want to clear my name because I did all I could, but I was not responsible for the unprofessional behavior of the agency owner and should never have been told to write a letter taking the full blame. Some of my coworkers believe that I would have a legal case against the university and the agency – the only thing that I am concerned about at this point is clearing my name, official record, informing the university that the way they are operating at this time is not acceptable, and that I am transferring to a university that handles things correctly so they lost the rest of my business. Any advice and ideas would be appreciated.
 


Zigner

Senior Member, Non-Attorney
Clearing your name from what? You were given a letter that stated you mutually agreed to end the relationship. That's just about as neutral as you can expect to get.

I don't see that you were wrongfully discharged at all.
 

quincy

Senior Member
I see no defamation in what you describe and I cannot see that there was a wrongful termination.

Because you apparently are moving ahead nicely from your bad internship experience, I recommend you do nothing more (including speaking negatively of the counseling business and its owner).

Here, for informational purposes, is a link to a New Mexico Supreme Court Opinion in a defamation case (Smith v. Durden) that details the elements of a defamation claim:

 

Dandy Don

Senior Member
There is nothing you can do to rectify the situation for yourself. You can suggest that the old university implement new procedures (such as the vetting and using a special adviser that you mentioned) in the hopes that if they do in fact adopt such procedures, that other interns may be spared from the mistreatment you endured. Please explain what the purpose of this internship is.
 
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quincy

Senior Member
It appears Krysiarose is on a better path to completing her studies at another university. And her current university already recognizes her former place of internship as a poor place for students.

There seems to be little that Krysiarose can (or should) do at this point. I see no legal action to pursue, at any rate.
 

FlyingRon

Senior Member
Just because you are angry doesn't give you a right of action. You got a dose of real life. Sometimes people get fired from jobs that's not their fault. As long as the firing doesn't violate any laws (such as because of race, etc...) or violate a contract you had, they're free to fire you because they don't care for the color of your socks. On the equitable side, you're free to quit for any reason as well.


The fact your university doesn't fare as well as others for finding students placement isn't particularly relevant. My school never "vetted" anything for me and they are one of the top institutions in the country.
 

quincy

Senior Member
... The fact your university doesn't fare as well as others for finding students placement isn't particularly relevant. My school never "vetted" anything for me and they are one of the top institutions in the country.
The university I attended for undergrad studies had formed "partnerships" with several employers, which helped students not only find internships where they could gain relevant skills and experience but also could lead to employment opportunities after graduation.

I had a "W" on my transcript, as a note, and it had absolutely no effect on anything. I withdrew from a language course (Chinese) when I quickly discovered it required more time to learn than I had time to invest.
 
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