Termination likely? Follow all the steps in your usual HR processes anyway

Sometimes it’s obvious that you are going to have to fire an employee. First, however, you must follow your usual employment and HR procedures.

Don’t just go through the motions, and don’t get sloppy!

If you make a mistake and then go ahead with termination, the employee is likely to sue. Even if he can’t prove he shouldn’t have been fired, you may still lose because you took procedural shortcuts.

Recent case: Andrew was a tenured physics professor at Lafayette College in Easton.

Two students filed complaints alleging that Andrew sexually harassed them in violation of college policies. One complaint was dismissed as unsubstantiated. The other was scheduled for a full adjudication through the college judicial system.

Andrew, facing a hearing, began to have anxiety attacks. He got counseling and medications and requested FMLA leave, plus the reasonable accommodations of having an attorney present during the hearing. Meanwhile, he filed what amounted to countercomplaints of sexual harassment against the two students.

Andrew then took FMLA leave. After he was cleared to return to work, his request for reinstatement was initially denied. Only later, after he contacted the U.S. Department of Labor, was he reinstated.

Ultimately, the college terminated Andrew, arguing that the countercharges he filed amounted to retaliation against the students.

Andrew sued. Most of his claims were dismissed, but his claim for FMLA interference—when he wasn’t immediately reinstated—was allowed to continue. (Kortyna v. Lafayette College, ED PA, 2017)