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Document why you fired worker, even in cases where rationale seems crystal clear

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management

Often, you have to fire employees for reasons that seem painfully obvious. Don’t let that stop you from carefully documenting the decision.

The fact is, you never know which employee will sue or what she will claim. The only way to prepare is with solid documentation prepared at the time you make the decision.

Recent case: Laila Elmiry, a Coptic Christian woman born in Egypt, worked for Wachovia for 11 years before being fired. She was terminated because Wachovia believed she had added a client’s name to a brokerage account application without the client’s knowledge.

Elmiry sued. As litigious ex-employees are prone to do, Elmiry threw in as many possible claims as she could. She sued for sex discrimination, religious discrimination and bias based on her national origins.

Wachovia successfully defended itself by showing its termination records and arguing that no one else had been treated more favorably.

Some of Elmiry’s claims were dismissed before trial, but a jury heard others. Fortunately for Wachovia, the jury concluded that Wachovia fired Elmiry because it believed she had faked a signature, and not for some other illegal reason. (Elmiry v. Wachovia, et al., No. 08-3065, 3rd Cir., 2011)

Final note: Most attorneys won’t take cases they know are frivolous or will likely lose. Thus, employees sometimes act as their own lawyers. Elmiry had an attorney early in the litigation process, but represented herself on appeal. Judges give so-called pro se litigants great leeway in court.

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