Sometimes, it’s useful to ask for an employee to comment on allegations that could lead to his discharge. For example, in the following case, the employer was about to fire a worker for omitting prior employment from his job application. Before doing so, the employer directly asked if that had, in fact, happened.
The employee’s confession helped the employer prove it had a legitimate reason to fire him.
Recent case: Walid El Sayed is a U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent and a Muslim. About three weeks before he was terminated, he complained that a co-worker at the hotel where he worked called him a “Terrorist Muslim Taliban.” He sued.
The hotel said it actually terminated El Sayed for not listing prior employment on his application, grounds for dismissal according to company rules. When confronted, he admitted he had omitted the information.
That was enough to establish in court that he had been fired for reasons unrelated to his complaint about the co-worker. (El Sayed v. Hilton Hotels Corporation, et al., No. 10-453, 2nd Cir., 2010)
Final note: Timing alone can be suspicious. That’s why you should carefully document every instance of discipline, with details. Make it part of the routine. And always do it at the time you make disciplinary decisions—not after you are sued.
Of course, you should also act on any complaint the employee made. In this case, that may have meant disciplining El Sayed’s co-worker.