You Are Fired – Management Steps to Avoid Getting Sued

As managers, we sometimes encounter “that employee” who tests the boundaries of the organizational rules.  The one who continually pushes you and not a second goes by that you have not been tempted to summarily terminate them because they keep ticking you off.   Let me start off by saying – good job if you have been able to fight the impulse to terminate without thinking. If you have terminated, and you did not get sued, consider yourself lucky because you dodged a bullet.

It is a huge mistake to dismiss an employee, even one who pushes you almost over the edge, without taking a deep breath, going back to your office, and carefully thinking things through after you have cooled off.

Below is a three-step plan for terminating “that employee.”  Follow it and you will never let your emotions get the better of you. And better yet, you are less likely to get sued:

  1. DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT.  Keep a record of each instance of bad behavior and, if there are witnesses, get them to attest to what they saw. If there are no witnesses, write down your version of what happened. And to make the documentation more solid, get the employee to sign off on what took place.
  2. FOLLOW PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE.   Do not let the employee keep getting away with bad behavior until the situation explodes or you do. Following your organization’s policy, warn such employees, write them up and even suspend them (i.e. progressing up in discipline).  The idea is to make sure there are no surprises to the employee if the behavior continues and the employee gets terminated.
  3. ENFORCE POLICY CONSISTENTLY.  Make sure that you enforce policy and follow progressive discipline consistently. Employees who commit the same offense under similar circumstances should be disciplined the same, unless there are legitimate business reasons for the differences.

Let me give you an example of how not following these steps can hurt your organization.  A habitually tardy worker who happens to be Hispanic showed up an hour late one day and his manager, who felt intense animosity for the worker, saw it as a provocation and fired him on the spot.  The manager never documented previous instances thereby progressive discipline was never taken. The worker sued and won because the worker’s tardy rate was no worse than that of other workers who just happened to be non-Hispanic. So the worker was able to argue that the boss had discriminated against him because of his national origin.  Do not let this happen to you. 

photo credit


About Patricia Knight
Hello and welcome. My name is Patricia Knight. Thank you for taking the time to view my blog. I’m a Human Resources professional who is currently pursing an MBA at the University of Nevada-Reno. I am an analytical, detail-oriented professional who believes that collaboration and negotiation are critical for successful employee relations between leadership and employees.

4 Responses to You Are Fired – Management Steps to Avoid Getting Sued

  1. ireneyachan says:

    Great post! It is very interesting to see it from the employer’s point of view. Personally I believe that all employers need to have better observations of their employees because it seems like the employees can sue their employers for just about anything!

    • Thanks Irene for the comment. It is unfortunate that employees do & can sue for anything. It is still good that employers have to terminate. They do it right. Happy birthday to you! ~Warmly~Patricia

  2. I have worked in places where it seems like people don’t do anything all day and I guess it takes more than simply saying your fired to get rid of that type of worker. Nice informational blog!

    • Thanks Marisela for the comment. I understand what you are saying about employees that appear to not contribute still remain employed. It is a process & does take time. Thank you, Patricia

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