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Needlessly cruel firing? Prepare for lawsuit

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in Firing,Human Resources

You’re almost guaranteeing a lawsuit if you make the termination experience unnecessarily unpleasant. And even if you win, you lose because defending against a claim takes lots of time and lots of money.

Recent case: For more than 23 years, Kathleen got generally favorable reviews as a teacher. Then a new supervisor arrived on the scene with tougher expectations. Soon, Kathleen started receiving feedback indicating she needed to improve her work. The supervisor also asked her when she intended to retire.

Finally, after perceiving that she was being frozen out of training and important meetings, she learned that her coming review was going to make even more demands for improvement. She was then called into a meeting, ostensibly to discuss the review.

Instead, she was terminated on the spot and escorted from the premises.

Kathleen sued, alleging age discrimination and claiming she had been retaliated against because she had argued a student should have been allowed to take a test the supervisor said he could not take. She claimed this was protected activity since she was advocating for the student.

The court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit, reasoning that there wasn’t enough evidence that the supervisor discriminated based on Kathleen’s age or that she engaged in protected activity.

However, the court did issue a warning. It wrote: “[A]t what was purported to be a performance review, plaintiff was summarily informed that she was terminated effective immediately and escorted out of the building. [Kathleen], a loyal employee … for over twenty-three years, deserved better. If the termination had been conducted with an appropriate degree of compassion and understanding, this action may never have been instituted.” (McGuire-Welsh v. Home of the Good Shepherd, et al., No. 6:14-CV-0278, ND NY, 2016)

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