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Fire blatant rule-breakers–even ‘top producers’

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Some employees think that being the best employee in a division or company means not having to follow the rules. That isn’t true and can be downright damaging to morale.

If you decide to fire the employee because of disruptive and uncooperative behavior, don’t worry that he’ll win a lawsuit just by virtue of productivity.

Courts understand there are other important considerations. As long as you carefully document what rules the employee broke, he probably won’t win a lawsuit.

Recent case: Kweli Askari, who is black, sold memberships at an L.A. Fitness health club. He was apparently an excellent salesman, since he was consistently the top producer, signing up many new clients who walked in the door.

But walk-ins weren’t supposed to be the only source of new clients—salespeople were also required to market outside the gym. Askari didn’t like outside work, such as generating sales leads. He argued with other salespeople, suggesting they should work outside sales, although he refused to. He even bickered about which desk he should use.

In other words, although Askari sold lots of memberships, he was disruptive. That didn’t sit well with management. Ultimately, despite his sales skills and productivity, L.A. Fitness terminated him for insubordination and refusing to follow the rules.

He sued, alleging race discrimination, arguing in court that his excellent performance meant bias must have been the reason for his firing.

The court didn’t buy it, noting there’s more to being a good employee than productivity. Askari offered no evidence that race played any role in his discharge. And since another black employee had made the decision to fire him, the court concluded that race probably wasn’t the motive. (Askari v. L.A. Fitness, No. 09-2789, DC MN, 2010)

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