Termination reasons needn’t be long laundry list

Firing an employee is a painful process. But delivering the news needn’t turn into a marathon discussion or airing of every management beef about the employee. Simply stating the main reason is enough, especially if the discharge has been a long time coming and the final transgression is simply the last straw.

If you or a supervisor do list a host of reasons for a termination, be prepared to prove that complete list if the fired employee sues.

Recent case: Arthur Weiler, the third in command at R&T Mechanical, passed an employee’s sexual harassment complaint up the ladder to the company owner, who fired the alleged harassing supervisor.

Meanwhile, Weiler was having his own troubles. His job bids often resulted in large company losses. He also doctored a photo of a female employee crawling out from under his desk and showed it to her. The last straw came when Weiler shut down the operation over a weekend without contacting the owner.

The owner fired Weiler over the phone for abandoning a work site. Weiler sued, alleging retaliation for bringing harassment to the owner’s attention.

The court tossed the case, saying the owner didn’t have to provide a complete list of his reasons for firing Weiler. The fact that poor job bidding and risqué photos weren’t mentioned during the phone call doesn’t make them suspect reasons. (Weiler v. R & T Mechanical, No. 4:CV-05-2433, MD PA, 2006)