It’s sad but true: Anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason. However, don’t let the fear of litigation keep you from making necessary decisions. Sometimes, you have to discipline employees for the good of the organization.
As long as you are reasonably confident you haven’t broken any laws and have good records showing you treat all employees fairly and equally, you won’t lose a meritless lawsuit.
Recent case: Ellis, who is black and over 60 years old, worked for United Rentals of America until he quit to move to another state for personal reasons. He soon changed his mind and applied for an open position at a United Rentals store near his new home.
He was hired. For two years he performed well. Then supervisors began to notice that Ellis sometimes allowed equipment to be rented when it hadn’t been properly prepared. Ellis received several written warnings, including one that informed him the next incident would mean termination.
Six days later, Ellis again allowed some equipment to be rented before it had been properly serviced and prepared. He was fired this time.
He sued, alleging age and race discrimination. But he couldn’t come up with anything as evidence of discrimination, other than a hunch.
That wasn’t good enough, especially when measured against company records showing that United Rentals had rehired Ellis knowing his age and race. The case was tossed out. (Dees v. United Rentals North America, No. 12-30477, 5th Cir., 2013)
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- Higher standards OK for probationary employees
- Don't panic when former employee files massive lawsuit—most claims go away
- Denying leave may be legal, but unwise, for small firms
- Courts will understand: Feel free to punish differently for misconduct that appears similar