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Firing

There’s danger in every aspect of firing, from WARN Act layoffs and exit interviews to constructive discharge and more.

Learn how to fire an employee and sidestep wrongful termination lawsuits, with battle-tested firing procedures, and employment termination letters. At last, you can fire at will!

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The former general manager of Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber in Fort Worth is suing the company for age discrimination, claiming he was fired at the age of 55 and replaced by a 38-year-old man.
Courts don’t want to second-guess every employment decision. They leave it up to employers to determine, for example, whether one rule violation is more serious than another. As the following case shows, employers are free to terminate employees who won’t listen.

Employees who sue for discrimination have to prove they are members of a protected class, were qualified for the position they held, were terminated or subjected to another adverse action and were treated less favorably than employees outside their protected class. Employers that can show the em­­ployee was insubordinate can quickly win such cases.

If you terminate subpar workers, it goes without saying that you must be prepared to show they were, in fact, poor performers. Do so by using objective performance measures. Let the facts and figures speak for themselves.
Q. Our company policy prohibits managers from dating subordinates. I have just learned that a manager has violated this rule. May we terminate him?

Remind supervisors and managers to stick with verifiable and documented facts when writing up an employee for poor performance, a mistake or other disciplinary matter. That’s because a false write-up could be grounds for a later defamation lawsuit.

Some employees don’t take direction well. One approach turns such employees around: Insist that the employee sign on to a performance improvement plan. If he refuses to cooperate, document that refusal. You can then safely terminate the employee for insubordination.
Under California law, a supervisor’s affair (and presumed favoritism) with a subordinate may be grounds for a hostile work environment claim by other subordinates.

After an employee files an EEOC or internal discrimination complaint, it’s natural for him to worry about retaliation. Every move by a supervisor or HR will be filtered through that lens. You need to be on guard against retaliation, too.

Don’t agonize over terminating an employee for misconduct. You can be wrong about the underlying facts as long as you acted in good faith when making the firing decision.
If a fired employee sues your organization, alleging discrimination, you’ll probably want to argue that the real reason was the employee’s poor work perform­ance. Maybe you’ll want to claim that it was a mistake to hire the employee in the first place. Well, don’t expect the court to let you go on a fishing expedition into the employee’s past jobs.
How much your organization pays for unemployment insurance is based, in part, on how many former employees have successfully filed claims against you. Under­­standing who is eligible for unemployment benefits and who isn’t can go a long way toward keeping insurance rates low.
What’s weirder: Actor James Franco earning a D in a drama class, or a NYU professor alleging he got fired for ­giving Franco the lousy grade?
Sure, a birthday party may lift your spirits. But Congress probably didn’t have party attendance in mind as “covered treatment” when it gave employees the right to take FMLA medical leave. Still, should you instantly fire a worker for attending a party while on FMLA leave?
Some supervisors may be secretly biased against members of a particular protected class—something that may be hard to tell until it’s too late. And if a bigoted boss decides to get rid of a subordinate by telling HR the employee is a poor per­­former, rubber-stamping that decision can mean losing a discrimination lawsuit.
A hairdresser who once worked at Manhattan’s trendy Devachan has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the hair salon, where cuts go for $300. It’s a big one, too: She’s seeking $16 million!

If you have employees who deal directly with customers, how they handle those interactions may be grounds for dismissal. When a customer complaint plays a role in a discharge decision, make sure you can locate that customer later. Customers’ testimonies can be powerful in court because juries tend to view customers as impartial.

Do you have one of those em­­ployees who are never happy and always seem to find something to complain about? It may be tempting to ignore the constant complaining or chalk it all up to personality conflicts, but that would probably be a mistake. Carefully document the tension and your response.
Los Angeles clothing manufacturer and retailer American Apparel has agreed to settle an ADA lawsuit filed by a former employee who was fired while out on medical leave.

If two employees break the same workplace rule, they should receive the same punishment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t distinguish between degrees of culpability. It’s perfectly fine to terminate an employee who has a long history of rule breaking and retain another because it’s a first offense.

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