Employees who’ve been fired have little to lose—and they’re quite likely to see a lawyer about possible litigation.
Right off the bat, you can expect that attorney to check whether the employer conducted a real investigation before making the termination decision. If it turns out that key co-workers weren’t interviewed or consulted, the attorney may conclude it is worth a shot to sue.
You can prevent that lawsuit from happening by investigating thoroughly. Document whom you talked to and what you concluded. That shows the court you acted in good faith.
Recent case: Cynthia Crawford was fired from her sales job at David’s Bridal, allegedly for leaving work early and refusing to straighten out the wedding gowns at the end of her shift. A co-worker interviewed by before the termination reported that Crawford walked out uttering a profanity and stating she didn’t want to straighten the dresses.
Crawford said it wasn’t true. She sued, alleging she had been fired because she is black.
The court tossed out the case. It said one way for an employee to make a discrimination case is to show that the investigation leading up to her termination was inadequate. In this case, that just wasn’t so. The company spoke with everyone who witnessed the events in question. (Crawford v. David’s Bridal, No. 07-13830, ED MI, 2009)
Note: The investigation doesn’t have to be perfect, just fair.
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