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Discipline / Investigations

Manager recommends discipline or firing? Investigate before agreeing to go along


Here’s something to consider the next time you authorize discipline or discharge: It pays to independently investigate management’s underlying reasons for the action. Do that even if the employee in question doesn’t belong to a traditional protected class.

Thorough investigations win discharge lawsuits

While you can fire an at-will employee for any legal reason or no reason at all, your best bet is to conduct a thorough and fair investigation. It’s much easier to persuade a judge that a discrimination complaint is meritless if you can point to records showing exactly why you fired the worker.

Establish clear discipline policies–and follow them for every employee, every time

You’ll rarely lose a termination-related lawsuit if your handbook contains clear rules that you follow consistently. That’s because when everyone who breaks the same rule is equitably disciplined, fired employees will have a hard time finding ­workers outside their protected class who were treated more favorably than they were.

Exclude FMLA leave from attendance discipline


Here’s a basic way to avoid FMLA trouble: Before punishing an employee for poor attendance, double-check whether any of the time she’s missed was for FMLA leave. That way, there’s no question about whether FMLA leave was a factor in discipline.

Key to quick lawsuit dismissals: Clear documentation of discipline decisions

It’s always wise to keep careful records showing exactly why you terminate employees. They’re crucial if an employee ever sues. By showing specific reasons why you fired someone, you will be able to show the court that the termination was appropriate.

Workers’ comp official charged with bribery

Employers are always looking for ways to reduce their workers’ compensation costs. Maybe making off-the-books payments to a state official isn’t the best way to go about it …

Boss has ‘history’? Investigate independently


When you have to investigate allegations that may lead to termination, it’s a good practice to conduct that investigation as independently as possible. That often means you will have to leave out of the picture any supervisors who have a negative history with the employee.

Always assume termination will be challenged


Here’s a good rule of thumb when disciplining employees: Consider it a given that if discipline leads to termination, the entire disciplinary decision-making process will be challenged in court. That’s why you must carefully document every disciplinary action, starting with warnings.

Former employees to collect overdue profit-sharing funds

Mentor-based North Coast Wood Products has settled a Department of Labor lawsuit alleging the company’s owner illegally diverted money from 11 participants in the now-defunct company’s profit-­sharing plan.

Just worried about discipline? Employee can’t sue yet

Employees won’t get far if they try to sue their employer over discipline that has yet to occur.