Here’s a tip that will make courts more likely to uphold your termination decisions. Make sure whatever reason you use to justify the firing also showed up in past performance evaluations.
Nothing raises suspicions more than kudos followed by discharge.
Recent case: Cherry Wolf worked as an associate general counsel for the Texas A&M University System for more than nine years. Her job involved employment law, and she got great, including recent comments that her work was either superior or exceeded expectations.
Then a new general counsel arrived and decided to reorganize the legal staff. He retained a male attorney, but terminated Wolf for her “attitude and demeanor.” He added that he felt he could no longer rely on her legal advice, but provided no specifics.
Wolf sued, alleging gender discrimination. She pointed out that no one had ever complained about her attitude and demeanor before.
The court said that because Wolf’s evaluations lacked any negative information, a jury should decide whether she was fired for legitimate reasons—or whether citing attitude and demeanor was just an attempt to come up with an excuse to get rid of a woman and retain a man. (Wolf v. Texas A&M University System, No. H-09-00643, SD TX, 2010)
Final note: Beware of subjective assessments when authorizing. Insist that managers give specific examples that support their assessments. You need something more substantial than generalities to hang your hat on.