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Document performance problems even if they are not serious enough to warrant discipline

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in Firing,Human Resources

Sometimes, an employee’s performance problems may not seem serious enough to warrant a formal performance improvement plan. However, you should be sure to document the problems anyway.

Those records will be useful if you later have to terminate someone for economic reasons.

Recent case: Patricia, who is black, was hired as a part-time clerk after a mutual acquaintance persuaded the town’s mayor to hire her. She was not placed in a specific position, but instead the mayor found assignments she could perform, including collecting water bills at a counter. The mayor later testified he hired her out of the “goodness of his heart.”

Then, budget shortfalls required someone’s job to be cut. The town decided on Patricia because she worked part-time in a floating job that could be replaced.

Plus, there had been customer complaints. They weren’t serious enough for formal discipline, but had been documented.

Patricia sued, alleging race discrimination. Her case was quickly dismissed based in part on the stated discharge reasons—budget cuts, her part-time status with undefined job duties and reported customer complaints. (Morris v. Town of Independence, No. 15-30986, 5th Cir., 2016)

Final note: While any of the three stated reasons for discharge may have been enough, it didn’t hurt that the employer had several good, solid reasons for its decision. Remember, judges don’t want to micro-manage your HR department; they just want to see that you acted fairly and reasonably.

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