Termination following customer complaint

Q. We recently received a customer complaint about a short-term employee who was already on a “last chance” warning for work errors. Can we fire her now, or do we need to first investigate the complaint?

A. If you have a past practice or policy about this type of situation, consider whether that impacts how you should proceed here. Being consistent, or being able to explain a seeming inconsistency, is important in defending discharge decisions.

You might decide you can fire her now, but what’s the rush? Why not get her side of the story before deciding what to do, and place her on leave pending the results of your investigation?

If you decide to fire her based on the complaint being “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” you should distinguish between the fact of the complaint being made, and whether the complaint is actually true. Just because a complaint was made that the employee was stealing, for example, does not mean the employee actually was stealing.

Sometimes distinctions such as this are the difference between a defamation claim being asserted or not.