Two: Have at least two managers represent the company at any termination meeting. That way, the fired employee can’t make exaggerated claims about what happened during the meeting.
One: Also, decide ahead of time the exact rationale for the discharge and then stick with that one reason. Giving contradictory explanations later makes it far easier for a court to decide that the real reason for the firing was some sort of discrimination.
Recent case: James Woolsey, who was over age 40, was the national sales manager for Klingspor Abrasives. He reported directly to the company president. Woolsey’s subordinates often complained about his behavior, and the company finally warned him to follow the rules more carefully.
Once upon a time, bosses could hire or fire as they pleased. That was their job. Now a manager can’t fire even a hopelessly incompetent worker without worrying about being sued. Read these two special reports, Fire at Will and Hire at Will, and get lazy, ineffective workers to either shape up or ship out – without winding up in court.
Woolsey’s conduct apparently didn’t improve and he was called into a private meeting with the president. There he received a letter informing him he was terminated for not following company rules and alienating his subordinates.
Woolsey sued for age discrimination, alleging that during his termination meeting, the company president made reference to the fact that Woolsey was no “spring chicken.”
The company president denied making the comment. Later, in court filings and when responding to an EEOC complaint, the company offered additional termination reasons.
The court said the case should go to trial. The comment during the termination meeting, if true, was evidence of age discrimination. So were the shifting reasons. (Woolsey v. Klingspor Abrasives, No. 4:09-CV-549, ND TX, 2010)
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