Wrongful Termination Can Hurt Your Organization
Are you at risk?
From the Desk of Gloria Williams
If an employee is surprised by their termination, they are more likely to sue. When an employee is terminated for “performance problems” and they have annual reviews that state they are performing well or they are an exemplary employee, this contradiction in documentation may be all the ammunition a lawyer needs to win a case against the organization. This inconsistency makes it easier for the employee to point out some sort of illegal discrimination or retaliation as the real reason for the termination.
Insurance companies report that wrongful termination lawsuits are increasing, and are the most frequent claim made in labor litigation. In a report from LawyersandSettlements.com, they state that former employees win over 50 percent of the wrongful termination lawsuits nationwide, and in some regions, the win rate for former employees has been as high as 70 percent.
It is important to note that litigation for wrongful termination can tie up an employer for two years or longer, as the lawsuit trudges along in the legal system. Along with the extended time the issue may take to be resolved, the cost can be quite high. California utility PG&E was fined $1 million for a single wrongful termination claim, just one of many examples of hefty fines that have been levied on companies.
If your organization performs regular or annual performance appraisals, supervisors should provide honest and regular feedback and evaluations. Supervisors should understand and follow the organization’s progressive discipline policy to eliminate a “surprise” when a problem employee is terminated. Whenever possible the organization should have an independent review of the termination recommendation to avoid an undercurrent of bias.