Business essay questions

Lawyers representing terminated employees love an ugly firing the way personal-injury lawyers love a bad car wreck. No matter how well deserved the termination, no matter how flawless the documentation of the employee’s poor performance, and no matter how high the hopes for calm following the departure of a contentious employee, a poorly handled firing can turn even the best intentions into a nightmare of litigation. Since a “bad” firing can be used as evidence of the employer’s animosity toward the employee in a subsequent discrimination, retaliatory or wrongful-discharge lawsuit, spitefulness in a termination can be very harmful to an employer’s defense. In my top desk drawer, I keep clippings of “bad firings.” Consider the following examples:

  • A      computer systems engineer took his 8-year-old daughter to the office with      him on “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” He was fired that same      day (with his daughter sitting beside him in the human resources manager’s      office) and escorted from the building.
  • A      cattle-feed salesman, employed for over 20 years by the same multinational      company, was called late one snowy January night by his supervisor and      instructed to drive to a city more than 300 miles away to discuss his      sales goals for the upcoming year. When he arrived the next day, he was      met by the HR director and handed a notice of termination, effective that      day. The HR director took the keys to his company car, and the salesman      had to call his wife to drive through the snowstorm to pick him up.
  • A      whistle-blowing lawyer who worked in state government was fired when she      reported to work one morning. After the lawyer was escorted from the      office, the state official who had fired her wrapped the lawyer’s desk      with yellow police crime-scene tape, “for effect.”
  • Upon      arriving at work one Monday morning, several bank managers and supervisors      (all over 50 years of age) were told to go to the bank’s large conference      room and wait for a special announcement. After they had waited for more      than an hour, a security guard appeared with the bank’s HR director, who      handed each of the employees a severance agreement and a cardboard box that      contained family pictures and other personal items from his or her desk.      The employees were then escorted from the building by the guard.
  • A      young lawyer who worked for a large law firm with a self-professed      reputation for hard-charging litigation was abruptly fired by the managing      partner when she criticized the firm’s longtime administrator’s handling      of an employee issue. The HR director escorted the lawyer from the office      in the middle of the day in front of her astonished coworkers, walked her      to the parking garage, warned her never to set foot in the building again,      and then followed the young lawyer’s car as she exited the garage.
  • A      universal description for each of these firings? Messy, public and      humiliating. And fodder for hungry plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Using the company’s mission statement or declaration of corporate values, many effective plaintiffs’ attorneys gleefully compare phrases such as “respect for human dignity” with the facts of an ugly firing. Jurors view such firings with distaste, and often respond sympathetically with large monetary awards to compensate for the employee’s pain and anguish. Business owners, executives and managers should be very concerned about how company terminations are handled. Since no termination is without significant emotion on both sides, there should be as much preparation, detailed planning and levelheadedness in a firing as in putting together a company’s disaster plan. My recommendations:

  • Know      your company’s terminator. A common factor in bad firings is a poorly      trained human resources director. Know the personality, training and      background of that person. Ensure that the individual has the temperament      to be fair and impartial, and the ability to ask some hard questions: Is      this termination legal? Does anyone have a hidden agenda? What are the      repercussions of this termination? Make certain the terminator has an      impartial script prepared in advance that responds to all possible      questions by the employee.
  • Treat      each termination as if it were thine own. Business owners and      boards of directors are ultimately responsible for their employees’      actions. View each termination as if your own job were on the line, and do      not simply “rubber stamp” each recommended termination. Remember      that an employee lawsuit will almost certainly require your deposition and      trial testimony, and you will have to explain your actions to a jury most      likely composed of more staff or line workers than supervisors and      business owners.
  • Expect      the unexpected. Although I am not a proponent of escorting a      terminated employee from the building, particular circumstances may      dictate otherwise, and employers should be prepared in the event that the      unfortunate or unexpected occurs. Be prepared, but not obvious.
  • Three      words: civility, courtesy, candor. Too many employees are told,      “You’re not a fit with this firm,” or “This is an      ‘employment at will’ company,” or “We don’t have to give you a      reason.” In an effort to obtain an explanation, those employees      generally go to a phone book, thumb through the yellow pages and find an      attorney eager to sue an employer. I recommend that employees be told the      reason for their termination. There is nothing wrong with responding,      “Because of your continued poor performance.”
  • Don’t      be a jerk. Enough said.
  • Remember      that this is business and not personal. Firings are not an      opportunity for the employer or its representative to vent or relive past      affronts to the corporation. If an employee tries to turn the termination      into a “boxing match,” the terminator must remain as levelheaded      and calm as a chess player. Remember that events at the termination might      be replayed many times in a lawsuit and before a jury.

If you don’t like to do firings, don’t do them. You won’t be any good at it. Use someone with the training, temperament and ability to handle terminations in a legally permissible manner that will allow all involved to behave with dignity.

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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.


1) What are your comments concerning the Human Resources’ dismissals in this case?  Which of the recommendations do you consider the best? Must be 300 words

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