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Former deputy receives thousands in wrongful termination suit

Most businesses in the United States operate on an "at-will employment" basis. This means it can be difficult to build cases for wrongful termination because both the employer and the employee may usually end the arrangement at any time, with little or no notice, for almost any reason. There are some reasons for termination, however, that are not protected by at-will employment laws. These include those that would violate federal anti-discrimination laws (such as termination on the basis of race or gender), those that would breach a contract between employer and employee and those that would result from retaliation after an employee lodged a complaint.

Jeffrey Randleman's job loss in 2014 is a case of termination due to retaliation. The (now-former) North Carolina deputy had testified against Sheriff Terry Johnson in a 2013 case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice which alleged racial discrimination. This was actually the second such case against Johnson - he had previously been accused of racial discrimination in 2012, but was found not liable.

During his testimony, Randleman described how Johnson showed overt racial bias in his conduct as sheriff. Then, Randleman alleged that he was the only deputy out of more than a hundred who was not reappointed by Johnson. He was not fired outright, but simply not reappointed - Johnson claimed that he felt he was doing Randleman a favor by not firing him outright and thereby making it difficult for him to get future employment. Randleman had previously served as a deputy for more than 20 years.

The lawsuit has been ongoing since 2015 and has encompassed counter-complaints from Johnson. On October 27, Randleman was awarded $327,000, as well as health insurance for himself and his son, and the monthly pension that all law enforcement retirees receive.

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