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Risky firing? Consider quick reinstatement

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in Firing,Human Resources

Sometimes, you realize you made a mistake with an employee. When that mistake could be fixed with a prompt offer to reinstate a fired worker, it’s best to make the offer sooner rather than later. As one employer recently learned, waiting until after the jury tells you how much you owe in future lost wages will be too late.

Recent case: Hilda worked as an assistant county attorney for four years. Then she announced she was running for a school board position. Two days later, her boss—the county attorney—fired her with no explanation.

Hilda sued, alleging interference with her First Amendment right to free speech (running for elected office).

A jury awarded her about $68,000 in back pay and a whopping $1.4 million in front pay, representing the pay and value of benefits she would have received in the next 20 years.

The county then offered Hilda her job back, reasoning that if she went back to work, she would have no future lost wages. Thus, the county could avoid paying out the $1.4 million. But the court said it was too late to challenge front pay. (Garza v. Starr County, et al., No. 14-41343, 5th Cir., 2015)

Final note: Generally, the longer you wait to reinstate an employee, the less likely a judge will consider that request instead of a front pay award.

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