As we previously noted, ESPN laid off approximately 100 employees last week. While ESPN may be the world-wide leader in sports, they do not appear to be the world-wide leader in handling terminations as evidenced by their handling of the termination of Ed Werder.
Ed Werder was a football analyst for ESPN. I say “was” because he was included in the mass layoff of ESPN employees last week. Coincidentally, the NFL draft also occurred last week in Philadelphia. Shockingly, this is not a post about how to handle an employee termination after he/she was caught drunk and disorderly at the Philadelphia draft, or how to handle an employee who has not appeared for work in 4 days because they locked themselves in a port-a-potty at the draft. Instead, this blog is about how ESPN mishandled the termination of Ed Werder.
After terminating Ed Werder on Wednesday, ESPN “allegedly” asked if Werder would stay on to cover the draft for ESPN. From an employment law perspective, this is a huge mistake. An employer should never, generally, terminate an employee and then request that the employee continue to perform work for the employer. Not only is the employer risking that the now-disgruntled employee will not do a good, or even adequate, performance of their job after being notified that they are now unemployed, but the employer risks other legal ramifications. In this regard, the now-terminated employee may have an “accident” on the job and request workers’ compensation. The employee may also contend that they were subject to harassment or discrimination after the original termination notice occurred, which now requires the employer to conduct an investigation and opens up the door to a retaliation claim.
Regardless of the reason an employer wants to keep someone on the payroll, whether it be to cover an NFL draft or to train the next janitor, when an employee is terminated, they should generally be done performing services for a company. To do otherwise, opens the door to more than just poor draft coverage, but potential litigation.