Employment discrimination legal claims remain high. Each year, nearly 100,000 charges of discrimination are filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to recent data, the median employment discrimination jury verdict is over $100,000, though that number does not include the amount of money the employer paid its own lawyers.
Discrimination and harassment are exceptions to the at-will doctrine that were created by Congress and many states. Consequently, the reality is that the at-will defense is rarely an effective defense. Equally important, a former employee does not need “smoking gun” evidence that an employer acted unlawfully. The government and courts understand that discrimination is usually subtle and difficult to prove. As a result, courts allow plaintiffs to use circumstantial evidence to prove their case.
In this legal environment, employers must be careful when making employment decisions and they must be especially careful when terminating an employee. A termination is more likely to result in a legal claim than nearly any other employment decision. Consequently, employers would be wise to avoid these five common termination mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: No Documentation Supporting the Termination. An old Chinese proverb says the tiniest slip of paper is worth a thousand words. That certainly holds true for employers. While there is no law that requires an employer to document an employee’s performance problems, doing so is a best practice. If someone is a problem employee, a court or jury will expect that to be reflected in their personnel file – and they will find it odd if it is not. Of course, documentation is not only a justification for terminating an employee. It is ultimately a tool to address performance problems and company expectations with your employees before termination becomes an issue. Unfortunately, sometimes you still must end your working relationship with an employee, and, hopefully, your documentation clearly shows your reason for doing so.
Learn about the five other mistakes and how to overcome them by clicking below.
Compliments of Jackson Lewis.