What actions rate instant employee termination

by on May 22, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Zero tolerance acts that rate immediate employee termination

In the handbook typically, you have a progressive discipline procedure that involves verbal and written warnings, suspension, then employee termination. But you reserve the right to accelerate or ignore those steps. These are serious things that rate employee termination no matter what

For example, smoking in the dynamite factory. This is a critical issue. “We haven’t had too many problems recently but we did have one bad experience. So we put it in the handbook. If you’re ever caught smoking in the dynamite factory, you’re fired.” There will not be a whole lot of documentation on this employee termination. No warnings, no 90 day reviews.

Define the zero tolerance issues for employee termination.
Would that be considered an at-will fire? No, because you’ve clarified in the handbook that this is a zero tolerance issue for employee termination. There might be limited documentation but typically when we think documentation, that’s generally the approach you’d take. So that could be an employee termination where there’d be limited or maybe no documentation. Why were you fired? Fired for smoking on the dynamite factory. We’re not going to give you another 90 days.

With the at will option, call their bluff
Anything short of what would be a pretty obvious situation where you would fire without documentation, you tend to shift or move to that at-will option where the manager then is calling the employee’s bluff, saying “This guy’s not going to sue a drugs and alcohol issue. They’re not going to sue. They don’t want the heat. They don’t want the publicity. I’m not going to accuse them because I don’t know what’s going on. I may go through the drug screen thing but more likely, no. You’re fired. You know why.” And in that case, especially something relating to drug or alcohol abuse on the job, chances are an at-will employee termination will be just as effective as the dynamite factory example. But bear in mind that drug or alcohol abuser might still sue. So anytime you don’t use the documentation, you run the risk. But in all likelihood either the handbook will say something about that or the employee won’t risk suing on those grounds.

The outsider will look at the situation and ask, “Did you give him or her a reasonable chance to save their job?” It’s very clear cut upfront. Again, for example, the dynamite factory. You’d be pretty clean. Other than that, you’d have to show some reason. Do you have to show 30 or 40 steps? No. Some union contracts, government may have 27 steps. But the outsider looks at what is reasonable.

These are the edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar:
“Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” hosted by Hunter Lott, Esq. on September 22, 2008

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