A recent decision in a Texas federal court case highlights for employers the dangers of a sloppy termination process. The basic story is an employer terminated the employment of a 55 year old employee for having a poor attitude and poor work performance. The employee's story differed in that he claims he met all requirements and his supervisor harassed him. The parties ended up in litigation and through the discovery process the employer's termination process began to unravel. The employer's basis for the termination came into doubt when the supervisory team could not identify who made the decision to terminate the employee. Multiple supervisors pointed in different directions as to the identity of the person making the decision. In addition, the employer failed to follow its own progressive discipline policy with respect to the employee. These flaws in the termination process resulted in the court providing the employee the opportunity to present his case to the jury at a trial. This outcome is a significant loss for the employer and will likely result in the employer choosing to settle the case with the employee rather than go forward to a trial.
Looking back at the facts of the Texas case, there are a couple simple and obvious lessons for other employers. First, ensure in any termination of employment that you follow your own company policies/procedures. If you fail to follow your own policies/procedures a court or agency will doubt the truthfulness of story you tell regarding the termination. Second, make sure your management team is on the same page with the decision-making process. If your own managers cannot identify who made the decision to terminate employment, the company's credibility will be destroyed. These couple of simple things are likely to cost the employer in the Texas case hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs and payments to the former employee. Make sure your company doesn't make these same simple mistakes.