Haste makes waste, when it comes to termination of employment

by on May 28, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Insist on line manager checking with HR before making any decisions on employment termination

Hasty disciplinary action or termination of employment – even if you have your reasons – can leave you vulnerable to charges of discrimination or retaliation. That’s the key point that emerges from a recent case in Ohio. The new CEO of a cardiology practice reprimanded a 56-year-old employee over performance issues and cut her salary by 30%. She filed an age discrimination complaint.

Six weeks later, the employer posted a schedule that obliged her to work one day a week in an entry-level position at a distant location. She fired off a letter to the CEO suggesting that her skills weren’t being properly used, and asking him to reconsider the assignment. That same day, the CEO called her in, said he was upset about the letter, accused her of “blackmail,” and made a brief reference to her discrimination complaint. He fired her on the spot. When she sued for retaliation, an appeals court said she had a case, and refused to accept the employer’s reasons for the termination of employment.


Her letter could easily have been read as an insubordinate attempt to dictate how the practice was run. That’s how the CEO said he took it. But here was the problem: For an employer to prove that discipline or termination of employment was business related and non-discriminatory, the employer must show that it made a “reasonably informed and considered decision.” In this case, the court said the hasty termination of employment left a suspicion the CEO was retaliating for the bias complaint, and using insubordination as a pretext.

Takeaway for HR: You may want to insist that line managers check with you before imposing discipline or termination of employment, except in cases where safety is jeopardized.

Martin v. Toledo Cardiology Consultants, No. 07-3724, 6th Cir., 11/21/08.

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