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California yoga instructor fired for banning cellphones in class

After hearing about the yoga teacher who was fired in California for trying to enforce a “no cellphone use” rule in class, some folks in the San Diego area might be wondering whether an employee can be fired over something so minor. Did the woman’s employer violate any employment laws by firing her?

So far, no reports have indicated that the yoga instructor will pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit. In California, most workers’ contracts are “at will.” This type of employment contract means that an employer can fire an employee for no reason. An employee may pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit, though, when the employee believes that he or she was fired as a result of discrimination or retaliation.

Based on the circumstances of the yoga teacher’s firing, it appears that her employer did not violate any employment laws. ABC News reported that the yoga teacher was fired in June after a student had complained about an incident that had happened during one of the instructor’s classes.

The instructor, who worked for Plus One Health Management, was hired to teach yoga classes for Facebook workers at its campus in Menlo Park. During one of the classes, the instructor asked the employees who were taking her class to put their cellphones away. When the instructor caught one of the employees looking at her phone, she simply gave the employee a “disapproving look.”

Two weeks later, the instructor was fired. According to her termination letter, the Facebook employee had complained about the incident to the woman’s employer. Because the employer instructed yoga teachers not to ban the use of cellphones in classes, the woman was fired for doing so and for not accommodating the needs of its customers. The woman’s former employer has not issued a public comment about its reasons for firing her.

Source: ABC News, “Yoga Teacher Fired After Glare at Facebook Worker,” Fenit Nirappil, July 12, 2012

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