Even if you think you have a rock-solid reason to fire someone, don’t count on it as an airtight defense against every lawsuit.
Your rationale might, for example, be an excellent defense against an age discrimination claim, but not against anclaim.
Recent case: Louis, who was 47 years old, worked in maintenance at a nursing home. He also was a caregiver for his elderly father.
The nursing home administrator placed Louis on a performance improvement plan because of several maintenance problems. He then began monitoring Louis’s attendance, believing that he was cheating the employer.
Louis then met with HR, explaining he had been afraid to apply forto provide care his father needed. Eventually, he did submit to HR.
The nursing home administrator fired Louis a few hours later, and he was replaced by a younger man.
Louis sued, alleging both age discrimination and FMLA violations.
The court dismissed the age discrimination claim, reasoning that the employer had a legitimate business reason for firing Louis—his.
But the court refused to dismiss the FMLA claim, concluding that the business reason that killed the age claim didn’t end the FMLA claim. The court relied heavily on the suspicious timing of the termination, concluding a jury might believe poor performance was just an excuse to punish Louis for requesting time off to care for his father. (DeCicco v. Mid-Atlantic Healthcare, ED PA, 2017).