Here’s a tip that can help prevent successful termination lawsuits: Set up your system so that the same individual or individuals who make hiring decisions also make the final termination decisions.
It will help you prevail in court if the fired employee tries to sue you for discrimination.
Courts often presume that if someone hired an applicant—knowing he belonged to a protected class—that same person is unlikely to later fire that employee because of his membership in that class.
Recent case: George, who is black, was fired from his job with Sivyer Steel after allegedly threatening a co-worker. He sued, alleging he was really fired because of his race.
The company countered that it uniformly enforced a no-threats rule. It also pointed out that the same supervisor who hired George had fired him after just 11 months. Therefore, it argued, no race discrimination took place.
The court agreed. George couldn’t point to any employee who had been retained after making threats. He also couldn’t explain why the same supervisor who hired him, knowing he was black, would fire him because he was black. The case was dismissed. (Butler v. Sivyer Steel, No. 12-2432, 8th Cir., 2013)
Final note: The system of having the same hire/fire manager must be in place for all hiring and discharge decisions. Note also that it only works for membership in protected classifications that are readily apparent, such as race, sex and some handicaps.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- RIF or no RIF: 8 alternatives to consider before laying off staff
- Revisit severance pay as a recruiting tool
- No matter how complicated the firing, have a rational explanation for decision
- It pays to hear both sides of the story before a firing