Always view termination as an act that might be challenged in court. That’s especially true if the employee has takenin the past. Lawyers love to file suits, which can be lucrative.
Defend against them by backing up your termination decision with solid documentation of performance or behavior problems.
Recent case: Elizabeth, a customer service representative for a plastics distributor, dealt with sales reps, processed orders, scheduled shipments and resolved customer problems.
Over the course of five years, she twice tookleave to give birth. Per the company’s standard procedure, HR told Elizabeth’s boss that she would be on leave, but didn’t identify the type of leave.
When Elizabeth again needed FMLA leave to care for her ill son, HR approved it and informed her supervisor, who arranged for coverage during her absence.
When Elizabeth returned to work, her supervisor began logging errors. For example, she shipped materials to the wrong client several times. The supervisor tracked Elizabeth’s mistakes, noting that he felt he had to micromanage her. Finally, he recommended termination. That was when he learned for the first time that Elizabeth had taken FMLA leave.
The termination was approved and Elizabeth sued, arguing that she had been terminated because her supervisor resented her use of FMLA leave.
But her lawsuit was quickly tossed out when the employer provided details about Elizabeth’s errors, which justified her firing. Plus, the supervisor who initiated the termination, hadn’t even known she had taken FMLA leave. (Burciaga v. Ravago Americas, No. 14-3020, 8th Cir., 2015)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Trust but verify: FMLA software isn't foolproof
- Teach managers: No complaining about FMLA
- Warn managers: Don't mention FMLA during discussion about discharge
- Remind bosses: Employees approved for intermittent FMLA leave are entitled to take it