Sometimes it becomes painfully obvious you’ve made a hiring mistake shortly after the new employee clocks in on day one. If, during initial training or on the first assignment, you know the employee will not meet your legitimate expectations—and you can substantiate your impression—it may be best to admit the mistake and discharge the new employee.
Recent case: Jerome Nowak, who was 45 years old, was hired as a school bus driver. He showed up for the first training session and immediately began questioning his safety instructors. He was belligerent, rude and generally obnoxious. The instructors pulled him aside and explained that he was being disruptive.
The instructors then told their supervisor that they were worried that Nowak would refuse to follow Illinois safety rules and regulations and additional safety measures the bus company had initiated. The company fired Nowak on his second day of work.
He sued, alleging age and gender discrimination. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed his case, reasoning that the employer had legitimate expectations (following the safety rules) that Nowak probably would have ignored, given that he was already questioning their necessity and encouraging fellow trainees to do the same.
Nowak, given his brief time in the workplace, could offer no evidence to cast doubt on the employer’s stated expectations. (Nowak v. Transportation Joint Agreement of Community Consolidated School District, No. 07-1605, 7th Cir., 2007)
Final note: Be prepared to articulate exactly what reasonable expectations the employee couldn’t meet. In this case, it was clear right away that Nowak was going to be a tough employee to manage. Following directions is essential, and he clearly showed he was likely to operate under his own rules.
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