In almost every case, clearly documentedwill trump discrimination allegations. That’s especially true if you can offer examples going back a reasonable period of time.
Recent case: Elira worked as a server on the day shift at a restaurant. She made no secret of her desire to get pregnant. Nor did she make a secret of her dislike for menial tasks and for a certain co-worker. She regularly got into arguments with other servers and refused to help clean and clear tables.
Then Elira announced that she was going to start in vitro fertilization efforts. Shortly after, she was terminated for poor performance.
Elira sued, alleging pregnancy and sex discrimination, arguing that she was fired because she had started fertility treatments.
But the restaurant said it fired her for a long list of incidents that culminated in an incident in which she was rude to a customer.
The court dismissed the case, arguing that Elira had merely shown she was fired shortly after starting treatments. That wasn’t enough to counter the restaurant’s legitimate reasons. (Govori v. Goat Fifty, No. 12-0857, 2nd Cir., 2013)
Final note: Worried about firing someone who just announced a pending birth? Make sure you can document that you had serious problems with her performance before you learned the news, and that you have fired other employees with a similar disciplinary history. Check with your attorney before making a final termination decision.
- When disciplining employees, pick one reason and stick with it
- Don't lash out at workers who take jury-duty leave
- Feel free to discipline or terminate employees who insist on working unauthorized overtime
- Maintaining employee's dignity is key to avoiding constructive discharge
- Create--and enforce--policy requiring honesty