Want to look good to a judge? Then take the extra time to let employees tell their side of the story before you fire them.
Recent case: Leandra worked at a Nutrisystem call center until she was fired for allegedly spending work time on personal projects, dropping calls and treating callers rudely.
She sued, alleging that she really had been fired in retaliation for an earlier complaint she made about rude co-workers and supervisors. Leandra also claimed that she hadn’t dropped any calls. Rather, she said, she had been issued a defective phone that sometimes cut off callers.
But Nutrisystem was ready. It told the judge that before it made the final discharge decision, it let Leandra explain her actions. At that time, Leandra admitted doing personal work while she was supposed to be handling calls.
Plus, when Leandra informed HR that she hadn’t dropped the calls, the company checked her equipment. It found nothing wrong, so it fired her.
The court said Nutrisystem acted fairly and legally. It fired Leandra for legitimate business reasons. The case was dismissed. (Allen v. Nutrisystem, No. 13-2505, 3rd Cir., 2013)
Final note: Although an employer can fire an at-will employee for a frivolous reason (or even no reason at all), it helps to use a fair and reasonable one. That way, the employee can’t argue she was singled out because of her membership in a protected class.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Call lawyer when changes mean employees must sign releases
- Safeguard your personal assets from lawsuits: Prepare to show that your actions were unbiased
- Simple culture of civility and respect can wind up saving sky-high legal fees
- Wrongful termination: 6 steps to keep firings from burning you