I always remind employers about the importance of documentation. Good documentation can often be an employer’s defense to a charge of wrongful termination.
Employers recently won a small victory when an employee filed suit against his employer, arguing that his employer’s decision to fire him was motivated by his ongoing care of his son with a disability and therefore, violated the ADA & the FMLA.
The employee argued that his employer was trying to use various unreasonable and incorrect nondiscriminatory reasons for termination as an excuse for a discriminatory termination.
The Court disagreed with the employee stating that even if an employer's reason for termination turns out to be incorrect, or even unreasonable, that alone does not prove discrimination. In other words, as long as the employer honestly believed the nondiscriminatory reason given for the termination, there can be no discrimination even if the reason was based upon incorrect information or was ill-considered or unreasonable. This is by no means a "get out of jail free" card for impulsive termination decisions, but it should provide employers with some comfort in those termination decisions where it is simply impossible for the employer to accurately determine all of the underlying facts.
Fortunately for the employer, the termination was well-documented. The Court noted that the employer had thoroughly investigated the situation, had carefully documented such investigation, had provided the employee with what it believed was a good and legitimate reason for termination, and had documented its reason in a thorough written termination report.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.