After firing, counter frivolous lawsuits with solid documentation of poor performance

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in Firing,Human Resources

Fired employees have nothing to lose by suing a former employer. And employers have no way of know-ing what frivolous claim a former employee may file. That’s one good reason to make sure you document poor performance.

Recent case: Michael worked as an engineer for Accuray, a Sunnyvale company that makes computerized medical equipment, including a surgical device for treating cancer.

Almost right away, it was obvious Michael was not going to be a star performer. He was criticized for poor communication, lack of attention to detail and failing to meet his goals. Over the course of his time with the company, his performance never improved, and he was terminated.

He sued, alleging he had been fired for blowing the whistle on Accuray for outsourcing labor and possibly illegal labeling practices. For example, Michael claimed he was forced to label refurbished cancer-treating surgical devices in a way that would reduce export tariffs when the equipment was sent overseas.

But Accuray produced all Michael’s poor performance reviews, most of which predated the issues he claimed led to his discharge. It was obvious to the court that Michael was fired because he was a poor engineer, not because he opposed the company’s practices.

The case was dismissed. (Boyd v. Accuray, No. 11-CV-01644, ND CA, 2012)

Final note: Always keep past performance evaluations on file. The same goes for any other documentation of poor performance, such as customer complaints. You never know when you will need it.

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