Courts don’t like conflicting reasons for termination, or confusion over who made the decision. They want to know exactly who decided the employee should be terminated and why. Create a clear who-and-why record before you fire.
Recent case: Armando, who was 55, worked as an engineer and wasn’t reprimanded or otherwise criticized until his responsibilities changed in 2012.
Then, he claimed, he was not given appropriate training for his new duties, especially when it came to new software. He claimed he could not properly access the technical systems he was required to use and received no assistance in resolving those difficulties.
Plus, his deadlines and workloads increased. He also claimed his supervisor would tell him to complete a project one way and then criticize him for doing so.
Armando was terminated and sued, alleging age discrimination.
Unfortunately for his employer, no one seemed to be able to say exactly who had made the termination decision. Four different supervisors claimed to have had a hand in it, but there was no consensus. That was enough for the court to send the case to trial. A jury will decide who terminated Armando, and more importantly, why. (Gutierrez v. City of Corpus Cristi, No. 2:13-CV-359, ED TX, 2015)
Final note: Always present a unified front. If no one can testify as to how, why and when an employee was terminated, that’s bound to look suspicious.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Don't let internal complaint derail discipline
- FMLA leave expired? Be equitable when firing
- Are your employees equal-opportunity offenders? Be sure your discipline is just as colorblind
- Avoid Impromptu Job Reviews; It'll Look Like a 'Paper' Job