Three common inconsistencies that lead into lawsuits for employee terminations

by on May 26, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Consistency with employee terminations can prevent lawsuits

Being consistent with employee terminations acts as a reality check for managers and supervisors. No one can tell you what to do. It’s like driving down the interstate; you see the speed limit sign. Some of us drive the speed limit, and some of us see the sign as a challenge, and go 80. We make risk-reward decisions when we hit the highway. Same thing at work as managers, I make risk-reward type decisions given the situations that come at me everyday.

  1. Not practicing DITO, DITA with employee terminations.
  2. Do it to one, do it to all. The more consistent you are with your employee terminations and procedures, your enforcement of policy, the fewer problems you’re going to have when its time to fire an employee. They may not like what’s going on, but they know what’s going to happen. You’ve had teachers you didn’t necessarily like in school, but you knew exactly where you stood with that teacher. Same thing here, people want to know where they stand every day. DITO, DITA. Do it to one, do it to all. This is a real solution. Many attorneys will tell you that you’re better off being consistent and wrong than not being consistent at all when you fire an employee. If you’re not being consistent, then it starts to look like you’re discriminating against someone when employee terminations begin

    Being consistent also means practicing what you preach. Send a message that you know the difference between good and bad. If you allow someone to come in late repeatedly and nothing happens, then that sends a message to the other employees that coming in late is okay. If we allow this to go on the employees figure out very quickly: “All right, where is the line? What can we do? What can’t we do?”

  3. Not practicing what you preach with employee terminations.
  4. You know, it’s one thing to tell an employee what needs to be done. But if you’re not being consistent, then this sends a message. And employees now are keenly aware, they’re watching us like any toddler would, in terms of our actions and the messages that we send. Ignoring the issue sends a message. And when you do that, you end up with something they call an implied contract. The law then looks at the employee terminations, the state looks at it and says you’ve set a precedent. Not just for one employee, but you’ve set the precedent for that unit, anyone else in the unit and potentially corporate wide. You’re only as good as your worst employee. You can break the implied contract, but you’ve got to be aware that it’s been set.

  5. Making an exception to employee terminations based on the list.
  6. When we talk about the list, we’re talking about protected groups: age, sex, race, religion, national origin, and disability. It’s easy to get crazy around these groups. It’s easy to think that you can’t fire an employee because they’re in a protected group.

    The list that says you can not discriminate or otherwise make employees miserable based on age, sex, race, religion, national origin or disability. Look at those groups. Everybody’s in one of them. Opposing legal counsel loves this game. They’ll say to a company: “You mean if this had been a white guy under 40, you would’ve fired him a long time ago.” If you say yes, then they’ve got you trapped. That proves you’re using the list when deciding to fire an employee.

Look at people as a package of skills. Hire based on the package of skills. Employee terminations are based on performance.

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 2-22-07

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