Firing an employee isn't usually an easy or pleasant task. You're probably careful to document everything because you understand the risks that your company can face from a lawsuit if the employee decides that you fired him or her because of discrimination and not due to his or her own inept or inexcusable behavior.
Unfortunately, even if you know you didn't discriminate against your ex-employee, you may have to prove it in a court of law if the disgruntled ex-employee convinces an attorney that he or she has a case.
Because there's been a steady uptick in the number of these kinds of lawsuits in recent years, it pays to take extra precautions.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Always have a third party present during your conversations with the employee about his or her job performance. Good choices include your personal assistant or the employee's direct supervisor.
- Always make notes during the meeting of what you said and what the employee said -- particularly if he or she threatened your company with a lawsuit or made veiled accusations.
- If your employee makes any sort of subtle accusations of discrimination, be upfront. Put the issue on the table and then ask your employee why he or she thinks the action is related to discrimination and not job performance. Never allow an accusation to go unaddressed.
- Follow up with a detailed letter that documents your conversation -- including what you expect to see from your employee in what period of time if he or she wants to retain his or her position. This gives your employee a chance to respond in writing. Failing to do so implies that he or she agrees with what was written.
As a matter of course, all employers these days also want to look into insurance that will help them handle legal costs in these situations. Employment practices liability policies (EPLs) help cover claims based on discrimination and can end up saving your business a small fortune if you come up against an employee who simply can't accept responsibility for his or her own predicament.
An experienced employment law attorney can be of great assistance if you need help defending yourself against claims of discrimination by a former employee.
Source: FindLaw, "Protection from Disgruntled Employees," accessed Nov. 16, 2017