Discharged employees often sue, counting on their protected status—based on race, sex, national origin and so on—to create the impression that they were fired for discriminatory reasons. That’s why it’s important to use a progressive discipline system. It lets you counter discrimination allegations with solid, documented performance or behavior problems that warranted discharge.
There’s danger in every aspect of firing, from WARN Act layoffs and exit interviews to constructive discharge and more.
Learn how to fire an employee and sidestep wrongful termination lawsuits, with battle-tested firing procedures, and employment termination letters. At last, you can fire at will!
It happens regularly: An employee is facing escalating discipline and fears for her job—so she files a surprise sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit, hoping to stop her firing. But you can fire her—if you can provide complete disciplinary records to justify that the decision had nothing to do with her complaint.
There are times that an employee can get away with behavior that you otherwise wouldn’t tolerate. During a busy period, for example, you might be more forgiving of tardiness than when things are slower. After all, when things are busy, a late employee may be better than no employee. But if you ignore tardiness, are you forever condemned to tolerate it? Of course not, as a recent case makes clear. Still, consistency is always the best practice.
Could you explain to a court exactly when you decided to fire an employee? If not, you need a system for tracking your decision-making process. That can be invaluable, as this case shows.
You probably have specific rules that spell out discipline for common violations. That doesn’t mean you can’t tailor the punishment to each individual situation. The key is to document the details that justify why one employee who broke a rule was punished more harshly than someone else who broke the same rule.
Sometimes, it looks like an employee has been performing just fine—until someone discovers that her work was really subpar all along. Before you discipline or fire the worker, document what you discovered (and when) so you can explain away prior good performance reviews.