Don’t risk a wrongful employee termination lawsuit
There are three critical principles to keep in mind when it comes to employee termination.
- The first one is consistency.
There is power in consistency. Do it to one, do it to all.
- You need to learn to document.
HR people love to scream at managers about this one, and they’re right. If you look at these wrongful employment termination cases the state filed with EEOC, you see that a lot of them break down into this concept of documentation. And you’ll notice some of them have too much documentation. But for most of them the problem is that they can’t take credit for the documentation they have when terminating an employee. Streamlining that documentation can be key in the employee termination process.
- Realize that you are the boss.
As managers we tend to be reactive rather than proactive. In terms of an employee termination, reactive is not a position of strength.
Look at all the headlines from the last couple years where companies have to pay out massive settlements or are forced to pay millions of dollars after losing a wrongful employee termination claim. Looking at all those headlines, there’s one thing that every case has in common. All of them could have been avoided. The good news is it isn’t hard to take actions to separate your company from the folks down the street paying millions in settlements.
These actions are about prevention, things you need to do to stay out of court. Yes, terminating an employee without fear of a lawsuit is possible. These three key principles—consistency, documentation, and understanding who is in charge—will give supervisors a blend of harmony and productivity, and it will keep you free of wrongful employment termination claims.
Keep in mind; this is about risks and rewards. This stuff, especially the compliant side of this, is like driving down the interstate. You see the speed limit sign that says 65. Some people drive 64 to be safe. Others will see that sign as a challenge. They’ll see the sign and decide to go 80 just to see what happens. Every time we hit the highway, we make a risk-reward decision. It’s the same idea when it comes to terminating an employee. With some of these ideas, you might decide to play it safe. Other areas, you might go ahead and risk a possible wrongful employee termination lawsuit. That’s fine, provided you understand where the middle ground is. The objective is to know how to make informed and intelligent risk-reward type decisions when terminating an employee.
Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” by Hunter Lott, Esq. on April 2, 2008
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