Especially in a lousy economy, fired employees will look for a reason to sue. You must be able to defend every discharge against possible discrimination and retaliation claims.
The only safe approach is to document that you treated every employee equally. You simply can’t cut slack for one employee and not another.
Recent case: Paulette Thompson worked for years as a customer service representative for Chase Bankcard Services. She consistently received good reviews.
Then she had to take time off when her brother and godmother died in rapid succession, and she herself was diagnosed with Graves’ disease.
Over the next year, she took intermittent FMLA leave to tend to her own medical needs and those of her son, who also had a serious health condition.
Then she was abruptly fired. When a customer said he was planning to close his account and take his business elsewhere, Thompson said, “That’s your choice.” Her supervisors justified her dismissal by saying such comments weren’t allowed, even with irate and angry customers.
Thompson sued, alleging that in reality she had been fired because she took too much. She argued that other customer service representatives had not been fired for one incident of rudeness.
The court said that disparity was enough to send her case to trial. (Thompson v. Chase Bankcard Services, No. 2:09-CV-293, SD OH, 2010)