• The HR Specialist - Print Newsletter
  • HR Specialist: Employment Law
  • The HR LAW Weekly
  • The HR Weekly

Discipline / Investigations

Portsmouth couple sentenced for embezzling union funds

A union official will have 366 days to contemplate her actions after being convicted of embezzling from Portsmouth’s Carpenters Union Local 437.

Thorough investigation makes discipline stick


If you really agonize over termination decisions, here’s a reason to relax a little. Firing someone for wrong-doing doesn’t require you to be absolutely right about what happened. As long as you conduct a reasonable investigation and make the decision based on the facts as you understand them, a court won’t second-guess you.

Even if you’re wrong, you can fire employee who’s on FMLA

Surprise! If you reasonably believe an employee who’s out on FMLA leave broke a workplace rule, you can fire him—even if it turns out you were wrong.

Make sure suspension policies apply equally to all

Sometimes, when investigating serious charges against an employee, it’s best to temporarily suspend him. If you use this approach, always do so uniformly and apply the same rules to similarly situated workers. Don’t, for example, suspend some with pay and others without.

No unemployment if employee quits during investigation

An employee who quits during a suspension and pending investigation isn’t eligible for unemployment benefits.

HR investigations: Good faith–not perfection–required

Courts don’t expect perfection from an HR investigation. They just want to see that someone in authority took reasonable steps to learn the truth.

Worker fired for gross misconduct? No COBRA

Employers can’t terminate em­­ployees just because a sick dependent increases health insurance costs for the employer. That violates ERISA. But if the employee is terminated for unrelated gross misconduct, he has no ERISA or COBRA claim.

5 rules for documenting HR decision-making

The best way to prevent lawsuits or to get a quick dismissal of unfounded charges is to document every employment decision carefully. Following these five simple rules can convince judges and juries that your HR decision-making is legit, above board and fully in line with the law.

Document disciplinary details to show why same violation resulted in different punishment


You probably have some general rules about what employees are and are not allowed to do. If you’re smart, your rules are flexible enough for you to tailor punishment that fits the crime. Faced with such inherent ambiguity, be sure to document the specifics of all discipline.

Consistent discipline makes it easier to beat employees’ discrimination lawsuits

For employers, the best way to win discrimination lawsuits is consistency. When you enforce a workplace rule, do so for everyone who violates that rule—every time. That makes it difficult for an employee to cry discrimination over a discipline dispute.