Have you worried about discharging an employee who just got an outstanding evaluation? It’s a legitimate concern, but don’t let it paralyze you.
Instead, consider what triggered the decision to look into termination. If the employee broke a clearly stated rule or was out-and-out insubordinate, you can and should take prompt action — up to and including termination.
The key is to consider the seriousness of the transgression and whether you would take the same action against another employee for the same offense. As the following case shows, a stellar evaluation doesn’t mean you can’t act.
Recent case: Paul Turner worked as a waiter at The Saloon, a Chicago steakhouse. Customers frequently requested Turner by name, and he received an annual evaluation that said he was “one of the best employees.”
In the middle of a shift, while there were customers at tables, Turner left the restaurant to run personal errands. Company rules expressly forbid leaving without permission during a shift. The Saloon fired Turner.
Turner sued, claiming among other things that he had been discriminated against based on his sex. His evidence at trial included the evaluation. But the court dismissed the case, reasoning that the restaurant had a good reason for the discharge and that the evaluation wasn’t relevant since Turner clearly broke a known rule. (Turner v. The Saloon, No. 05-C-4595, ND IL, 2007)