Consistency helps keep companies out of legal trouble with an employee termination

by on May 27, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Three common inconsistencies that can result in costly employee termination lawsuits

Consistency can help keep companies out of legal trouble for discrimination or harassment with an employee termination. Regarding the things that get companies in trouble, there are three common inconsistencies that can result in costly employee termination lawsuits.

One is having a supervisor that doesn’t practice D.I.T.O., D.I.T.A with employee termination. Do it to one, do it to all. This follows with this idea of consistency. Have a procedure in place. Be as consistent as you can possibly be in enforcing that procedure, especially with an employee termination. This takes pressure off the employees to have to think about it when they need to fire an employee. This takes pressure off of managers. In terms of our procedures, the attorneys will tell us we’re better off consistently wrong than being inconsistent. So be as consistent as you can be in enforcement of your procedures.

It’s just like bedtime with small kids. You set a time, you communicate the expectations and you hold accountable. Now, employees are kids but the emotions evolved. Once you realize as a supervisor that the art of supervision is not logical in many cases, it’s emotional. And that really helps in terms of your approach when you have to fire an employee.

Exceptions not based on performance
Number two, a supervisor who makes an exception based on the list. That is, making an exception based on age, sex or race. That typically is going to be a challenge. That’s going to be risky. Not that it can’t be done but it’s going to be risky. Look at this, age, sex, race, religion, national origin or disability. Think. Is anyone not on this list? Now, it’s not that I ignore the list. I look at people though as a package of skills. I hire the package of skills. I fire an employee based on performance. Don’t discriminate or otherwise make employees miserable based on their age, sex, race, religion, national origin or disability. Because if you’re too afraid to fire an employee because they’re on the list, there’s nobody left.

Practice what you preach with employee termination
Third concept; a supervisor has to practice what he or she preaches. Again, emotionally they’re looking at you; the employees are looking at management. They’re looking for our lead. Do you communicate? Do you walk the walk, or talk the talk? Do you talk out of this end of the mouth and then act this way? You’re going to see that your actions speak louder than your words and the one critical behavior of management is actually doing what you say you’re going to do. If someone comes in late continuously and you do nothing about it, you’ll end up creating what’s known in most states now as an implied contract. That sets a precedent for the employee, for the unit, and potentially corporate wide. Remember, you’re only as good as your worst employee. That said, it’s possible to break the implied contract, by confronting this employee and making it clear that his lateness will no longer be accepted, especially if everyone else is still punctual.

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 August 22, 2007

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