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Beware firing after employee’s pay complaint

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in Firing,Human Resources

Employees who are fired have very little to lose and everything to gain by finding some reason to sue. And lawyers are more than willing to help them.

That’s why you must make sure before you fire someone that she’s been paid everything she is owed. And if the employee has complained about pay irregularities, be sure to investigate right away. Before firing a complaining employee, make sure you have resolved her complaint. If the complaint involved a supervisor, remove him or her from any part of the termination process.

Recent case: Gloria worked for a little over a year for Pacific Coast Feather Company. Her job was to sew pillows and other products. She was paid a set hourly wage, plus incentive pay based on her team’s total production. The more pillows, sheets and comforters they sewed, the greater their paychecks.

After a while, Gloria wondered why her paychecks no longer in­­cluded productivity pay. She told the company she suspected her supervisor had been diverting goods to sell at a flea market. By diverting the goods, he essentially would have been able to cut into the team’s earnings.

A short time after, she was terminated for alleged poor attendance. She sued.

Her lawyers demanded to see all the production records, arguing that Gloria was essentially a whistle-blower whose supervisor had managed to get her terminated before the company could take a closer look at his activities. The court ordered the company to turn over extensive records. (Allen v. Pacific Coast Feather Company, No. 5:10-CV-484, ED NC, 2012)

Final note: You can fire an employee who has complained. Just make sure you can show that the discharge was not related to the complaint and that you would have made the same decision regardless of the complaint.

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