Second chances are underrated. Let’s say a supervisor acts too hastily in firing an employee who has turnaround potential. Or perhaps you learn the employee has a plausible discrimination claim, and you’d rather address the issue right away than risk litigation.
If you offer to reinstate the employee right away and she refuses to return, chances are a court won’t conclude you unfairly terminated her in the first place.
Recent case: Regina Hills, who is black, worked as a sales associate/cashier at Walmart. She was often late for work or absent all together.
Hills complained to higher-ups that her supervisor had called her a racial epithet one day after the two got into a spat. Shortly after she complained, another supervisor warned her that she needed to improve her attendance because she was missing considerable work, having been absent 29 times and tardy 32 times in the previous year.
Shortly after, that supervisor terminated Hills after she tried to clock in more than four hours past her start time.
The same day, Hills contacted upperunder the company open-door policy to complain about the alleged racially hostile work environment and her termination. She was informed that she could have her job back and return for her next shift. After Hills explained she had to go out of town, she was offered a later return date. She never showed up again.
Instead she sued for discrimination.
The court tossed out her case, reasoning that the almost immediate reversal of her termination meant she hadn’t been terminated at all. By not coming back, she voluntarily quit. (Hills v. Wal-Mart, No. 08-23197, SD FL, 2010)
Final note: Walmart did everything right in this case. It reversed the decision promptly to show it was sincere in addressing her concerns.
- When weighing soft skills, document decisions
- Making light of complaints adds dollars to damages
- Even if not job-related, consider granting easy disability accommodations
- How to prevent succession planning from triggering discrimination complaints
- Review severance pact for clarity; define 'for cause' terminations