Unfortunately, many lawsuits come down to one person’s word against another’s. That’s powerful incentive for a company rule requiring at least two managers to participate in any discharge. Reason: They can back each other up.
That significantly reduces the chance for a terminated employee to sue over something that didn’t really happen.
Recent case: Eugene Smith, who is black, was hired to work for Golden Palms Inn and Suites. Smith said the hiring manager, Yasmin Thariani, had promised him 40 hours of paid work every week.
Smith went to Thariani to complain that she wasn’t living up to her promise. Thariani then fired Smith, allegedly telling him, “That is why we don’t hire people of your color.”
Smith sued, alleging race discrimination.
The court said the case could go forward based on Smith’s version of events. The decision came despite the hotel’s argument that it made no sense for a manager to hire someone knowing his race only to fire him later because of bias against that race. (Smith v. Ocala Inn, No. 5:10-CV-168, MD FL, 2010)
Final notes: As an HR pro, insist on getting involved before anyone makes a final decision to terminate. That can significantly reduce your lawsuit risk. Then arrange to carry out the discharge in a dignified and organized manner. Stick with a script and avoid being drawn into an argument. Take careful notes of everything said for future reference.