It’s essential to be able to cite a legitimate business reason for firing an employee. Oh, sure, most workers are at-will employees, who can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, as long as your actions don’t violate anti-discrimination laws.
That can tempt some supervisors to get lazy and fire a difficult employee without documenting exactly why. That’s a big mistake.
Instead, insist that all disciplinary actions be justified by a good business reason. That way, if the employees sue for alleged discrimination, you have something to counter the claim.
Recent case: Honhyuan Lu, a woman of Chinese national origin, worked for Chase as a financial advisor. She was fired after the branch hired two men—one of Chinese origin and another of Korean origin.
Lu sued, alleging she had been terminated due to her gender or national origin.
But Chase was ready to explain. It had hired the other employees in an attempt to raise the branch’s performance. It terminated Lu because it had detected irregularities in her sales practices. That was enough to get the case dismissed. (Lu v. Chase Investment Services, No. 10-208, 2nd Cir., 2011)
Final note: Remember, courts are looking for ways to toss out lawsuits. They don’t want to hear every employee complaint about unfair treatment. As long as employers have a reason that sounds legitimate, chances are courts will support the employer’s decision. Just make sure you document the decision-making process.