It’s always wise to keep careful records showing exactly why you terminate employees. They’re crucial if an employee ever sues. By showing specific reasons why you fired someone, you will be able to show the court that the termination was appropriate.
If all you do is check a box for a specific broken rule or policy, defending the case becomes more difficult.
Recent case: Frito-Lay employee Samuel Amfosakyi had attendance problems. At least once, he racked up enough absences to hit the last step on the company’sprogram, although he eventually pulled back from the brink.
Then Amfosakyi showed up for a 12-hour shift and left after two hours without getting permission. He returned almost five hours later. When confronted, he told supervisors he was gone only 30 minutes. He repeated this lie later, in writing. Then he was terminated for leaving without permission and for lying about the incident.
He sued, alleging that another employee broke an unspecified rule years earlier but wasn’t fired.
The court sided with Frito-Lay, reasoning that its documentation trumped Amfosakyi’s example of alleged leniency. The two incidents weren’t comparable based on the company’s careful documentation. (Amfosakyi v. Frito-Lay, No. 1:11-CV-00651, MD PA, 2012)
Final note: You can’t prevent every lawsuit, because some just come out of left field. However, you can prepare by documenting every decision. That often leads to quick dismissals.
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- Document discharge decision at time it's made
- Beware overly broad drug policies, which could violate ADA rules about revealing a disability
- Consistency is key when firing for performance
- Snuff out gossip about firings; don't forward damaging e-mail