Employers have a right to expect their employees to be honest and follow company rules. Employees who don’t should be disciplined and possibly terminated. But employers must make sure they can back up their claims. Otherwise, they may face lawsuits if the fired employees belong to a protected class.
Your best bet before making a final discharge decision is to conduct an investigation. That way, you have more to present to the court than a quick decision that may smack of an ulterior motive and the opportunity to “throw the book” at an employee you would like to fire for any reason.
Recent case: Sharon Foster, who was approaching 60 years of age, was a manager at a Regis Trade Secret salon. A regional supervisor inspected the store and discovered what she thought were discrepancies in Foster’s returned-product paperwork. It looked as if some returns had been rung up under other stylists’ identification numbers. decided this amounted to falsifying company records. It fired Foster before asking for her take on the matter.
Foster sued, alleging age discrimination. She told the court that she never used other employees’ numbers, and even had affidavits from employees supporting her innocence. That was enough for the court to order an age discrimination trial. Foster will now try to persuade a jury that the company manufactured an excuse to get rid of her because of her age. (Foster v. Regis Trade Secret, No. 3:07-CV-694, ND TX, 2008)
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