Six Common Termination Errors
Terminations are one of the biggest triggers for employment lawsuits, and it's also where supervisors and HR professionals seem to make the most mistakes.The most common errors typically seen in terminations are:
1. Incomplete or contradictory documentation
If you have annual performance reviews, make sure your supervisors are doing them accurately. Plaintiffs' attorneys like nothing more than seeing potential clients walk in the door with a stack of glowing reviews along with a sudden pink slip for "performance problems." Such inconsistency makes it much easier for the employee to point to some sort of illegal discrimination or retaliation as the real reason for the firing.
2. Lack of progressive discipline
When employees are surprised by a termination, they're more likely to sue. Make sure supervisors provide honest and regular feedback and evaluations. Also, make sure managers understand and follow your progressive discipline policy.
3. Failure to recognize length of service in terminations
Juries are much more likely to hand out generous verdicts to employees who put in decades of service and then are suddenly fired for "poor work." Be very careful with employees with long tenures.
4. No independent review of termination decisions
Many cases are triggered by rogue bosses who fire workers on their own. Neither HR nor the leadership team know why the worker is let go-and the reason is often some kind of bias or retaliation. Some outsider-either HR or an executive group or consultant-should review every termination recommendation to make sure there isn't any undercurrent of bias.
5. Calling a termination a 'reduction in force'
Many employers try to avoid conflict by naming an employee's departure a "reduction in force" when the true reason is something else. Such inconsistency and inaccuracy, is a red flag.
6. Failing to be "fair" after the separation
Simple actions that are perceived as unfair-even if they're not "illegal"-will send ex-employees running to the courthouse. Example: severance pay - if you have a severance pay policy, make sure you follow it.
Letting an employee go is never pleasant, and doing it the wrong way can lead you down a dangerous path to litigation. If you need assistance in managing a termination, HR Advantage is available to assist.