When managers are considering a termination, they are typically feeling upset and uncomfortable. They just want to “get it over with.” As business owners or HR Professionals, we need to slow them down and ask a few very important questions first or else you may be headed for an expensive lawsuit.
- Have you followed your own policies? Check your policy to be sure that you have followed it, especially if your policy calls for “progressive discipline” or suggests that employees are termination only for cause.
- Is there a contract or other guarantee? If the employee has a written employment contract, you will probably be bound by its terms. Even without a contract, many courts have found that certain documents such as handbooks, offer letters, etc. can create implied contracts.
- Is there a Union Agreement? If the employee is covered by a union contract, you must determine whether this termination would be contract to the contract provisions.
- Have you been consistent? Consistency is an important part of fair treatment. If you have consistently terminated others for the same offense, you are probably going to be all right. If you have never terminated a white male for a certain offense, and now you intend to terminate a black male for that offense, you could be on thin ice.
- Could this termination be viewed as discriminatory? Could this employee claim that he or she was terminated not for the reason the company has claimed, but because of discrimination reasons? For example: “You terminated me because I am old, black, Muslim, gay, disabled, etc) not because I broke a rule.”
- Could this termination be a result of retaliation of some kind? If an employee claims that he or she was terminated for making a complaint to a government agency, making accusations of sexual harassment, or making a workers’ compensation claim, you must evaluate the situation carefully.
- Is the employee pregnant? In general, treat pregnant women the same way you treat any employee with a disability. You may not terminate a woman because she is pregnant!
If you are interested in an in-depth discussion on these topics or if you need assistance in the above mentioned areas, please contact HR Advisors today.