Nothing raises suspicions among employees (and juries) than effusive praise followed by a pink slip.
So here’s a tip that will make courts more likely to uphold your termination decisions: Make sure whatever reason you use to justify a firing also shows up in past performance evaluations.
Recent case: Cherry Wolf, an associate general counsel for the Texas A&M University, received great. Recent comments from supervisors said her work was superior and exceeded expectations.
Then a new general counsel arrived. He retained a male associate general counsel, but terminated Wolf for her “attitude and demeanor.”
Wolf sued, alleging gender discrimination. She said no one had complained about her attitude and demeanor before.
The court sent the case to trial, saying that because Wolf’s evaluations lacked any negative information, a jury should decide whether citing “attitude and demeanor” was just 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: Always beware subjective assessments when authorizing. Insist that managers give specific examples that support their assessments. You need something more substantial than generalities on which to hang a termination.