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Ten Rules On How to Fire An Employee--And Not Get Sued

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Message Roger Shuler

No. 1--Document the employee's personnel file

Infinity, you might recall, fired Mrs. Schnauzer for being "tardy" after they had told her to change her start time each day from 9 to 9:30 a.m. in order to assist with the company's large customer base in California. When she did as she was told, and started arriving at work about 9:20 every day, they let it go on for about three months--never saying a word that anything was wrong. Then, all of a sudden, they claimed she had three months' worth of tardies and fired her. Infinity did prepare a written warning a few days before Mrs. Schnauzer's termination. But it was based on false information and did not confirm to the company's own policies--which require it to give oral warning after three tardies, written warning after six tardies, etc. Mrs. Schnauzer never received any oral warnings about tardies--and that's because she wasn't tardy, and the company's own actions show that.

UAB essentially made no efforts to document its claims that I was using work resources to write my personal blog. I never received any warnings regarding such activities. UAB policy requires progressive discipline--oral warning after a first offense, written warning after second, possible termination after a third. I never received any warning, under university policy, for any offense--and that's because I hadn't committed an offense. UAB's own actions indicate that. When asked during my grievance hearing to provide documentation to support her decision to fire me, my supervisor, Pam Powell, repeatedly said she didn't have any. Asked to provide documentation of any warnings she had issued, Powell said she didn't have any.

Grades: Infinity, F; UAB, F

No. 2--Employers should be consistent in discharging employees

At Infinity, Mrs. Schnauzer, who was in her late 40s, was put on a strict time clock. Several coworkers, who were in their 20s, worked on flex time. In other words, it was essentially impossible for a younger employee to be tardy. Mrs. Schnauzer was accused of being tardy even when she showed up 10 minutes prior to her scheduled start time.

At UAB, I was 51 years old when I was essentially fired for writing a blog--on my own time, on matters of public concern--that someone in the power structure didn't like. A coworker who was about 25 at the time actually was writing his blog and other political content on his work computer and did not get fired.

Grades: Infinity, F; UAB F

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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