Employers that routinely discipline employees only for solid, business-related reasons seldom find themselves on the losing side of a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit.
Courts like to see that employers pause before firing an employee accused of breaking a rule and then document their investigation carefully.
Interviewing the employee should be routine in most disciplinary cases. Temporarily suspending an employee before making a final decision also shows the court that the process was fair.
Recent case: Bernadette worked as an assistant manager for a nonprofit social service agency that provides services to those in need in the community, including the developmentally disabled, children at risk and the elderly.
Her job included tracking her subordinates’ hours and making sure they were paid.
Bernadette tookand then returned to work. Soon, two employees complained to Bernadette’s supervisor that they hadn’t been paid. The agency launched an investigation and interviewed Bernadette, who admitted she hadn’t handed in the time sheets in question. However, she said everyone else had been properly paid. That turned out to be untrue. Plus, an employee said Bernadette had made her alter her time sheets to show fewer hours worked. Bernadette was fired.
She fired back with anlawsuit, but didn’t get far.
It was clear to the court that the agency had good, solid and documented reasons to fire her unrelated to herleave. (Guidry v. Gulf Coast Teaching, No. 13-30540, 5th Cir., 2014)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- When RIF affects someone who complained, prepare to show your process was fair
- How to counsel employees who have personal problems
- Excessive absences justify firing—And bar unemployment compensation
- OK to suspend employee who has been arrested if alleged violation would compromise safety