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Don’t throw the book at fired employee–one good reason will suffice in court

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

The more reasons you can dream up to fire an employee, the better. Right? Think again.

Firing someone for one obvious rule violation will stand up better in court than a laundry list of petty transgressions.

If you can show that the employee knew he was breaking a rule because it was in your handbook, all the better. Extra points if you have a copy of his signature acknowledging receipt of the handbook or a computer record showing he accessed it online.

Recent case:
Joshua Reynolds worked as a bus driver and injured his shoulder at work, making him eligible for workers’ compensation. He returned to work with residual pain and mobility problems. Then he was fired for allegedly falsifying his hours to get overtime he wasn’t entitled to.

Reynolds sued, claiming disability discrimination.

But the transit authority showed the court its handbook, which it proved all employees received—and which clearly stated that falsifying time records could mean discharge. Then it produced statements from managers who tracked Reynolds’ hours. The managers said his time records falsely showed he was still on the job when the managers knew he had already left work.

That was all the court needed to hear to conclude that the transit authority had a legitimate reason for firing him. (Reynolds v. Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit, No. 08-CV-2081, CD IL, 2009)

Tip: For more advice on terminations, read our white paper, The Right Way to Fire.

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