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

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

In our previous segment, we noted a Birmingham law firm's document with this classic title--"Ten Rules on How to Fire an Employee--And Not Get Sued."

Now we are going to apply those rules to Infinity Property and Casualty and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the organizations that "fired" Mrs. Schnauzer and me. Actually, we probably were not fired in the traditional sense of the world. We likely were the victims of "career hits," authorized by powerful forces from outside our workplaces because we've dared, on this blog, to speak the truth about legal and political corruption in Alabama. Still, it should be fun to grade these two organizations and see how they fare when it comes to "enlightened" management.

We encourage you to follow along with us and apply grades to your own employer. Let us know if you work for an outfit that actually finishes with a passing grade. You can check out the full "Ten Rules" at the end of this post.

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First, we should note that the headline in our featured document is poorly stated. It should read, "Ten Rules On How to Fire An Employee--And Not Get Successfully Sued." In our society, there is nothing to keep someone from suing you--for getting out of bed in the morning or wearing the wrong color of socks. I should know; my criminally inclined neighbor sued me for picking up trash out of my own yard. (As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up!)

The issue is not preventing a lawsuit--because you can't do that in the US of A; it's preventing a successful lawsuit.

Now, let's check out our rules and see how Infinity and UAB fare:

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.

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Grades: Infinity, F; UAB, F

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

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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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