It’s crucial to prepare accurate notes about any meeting in which managers are discussing whether to terminate someone. Make sure those notes are so clear that they can’t be open to multiple interpretations.
Otherwise, a jury might hear a simple question like, “Can we get in legal hot water for firing someone on disability leave?” as “Let’s find a way to get rid of her!”
Recent case: Rosalyn Grace went on after a bout with asthma landed her in the hospital. When she was ready to return, the company informed her it had outsourced her job to an IT firm. Grace sued.
During the lawsuit’s discovery phase, she learned that while discussing her termination, the director of operations said he understood the firm needed “a legitimate business reason” to fire Grace because she was “out on disability.” Otherwise, he said, the company might be sued.
A note in the file said, “Can lawyers construct a way to make it doable?” That was enough for the court to order a jury trial. (Grace v. USCAR and Bartech, No. 06-2509, 6th Cir., 2008)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Limit access to information about litigation
- Protect against bias allegations: Involve hiring manager in any termination decision
- Remind bosses: Handle FMLA requests stoically, even if they'll cause scheduling problems
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