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Old 04-27-2019, 08:52 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles, CA
173 posts, read 187,980 times
Reputation: 239

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My understanding is that management has a lot of discretion in hiring and firing where the arrangement is employent-at-will. No notice or reason is required.

I have been told by a lawyer that if a company has a written policy, they need to follow the written policy.

Imagine this scenario:

Lawyer: Why did you fire my client Bill?

Manager: Because he was wearing a blue shirt. I think it's an ugly color. Which I'm allowed to do. Our policy is managers and can hire and fire as they see fit.

Lawyer: But the day after you fired my client, another employee named Joe wore a blue shirt. You did not fire that person. You also have no written policy on shirt color.

Manager: The next day I changed my mind about blue shirts. Which I am allowed to do. Our company lets managers make whatever decisions they need to, and change those decisions as they see fit. I didn't fire Bill because of race, sex, sexual orientation or anything else you can sue over. You don't have to agree with my decision, but I had the legal right to make them.

Can the Lawyer use this as proof of discrimination? If the Lawyer can point out Bill is a different race from Joe, can he say it's just unreasonable for believe it was really a matter of shirt color?

Or is the manager secure in saying he had the right to make those decisions, no matter how arbitrary they seem?
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Old 04-27-2019, 10:21 AM
 
Location: Chandler, AZ
2,280 posts, read 1,154,679 times
Reputation: 5384
Anybody can sue anyone else for anything at any time. In the above scenario, there is absolutely nothing stopping the aggrieved ex-employee from suing, or finding a lawyer who feels they can make a case for legal discrimination, or for a jury to decide nah, we think you actually fired Bill because he's black, you now owe seven figures plus fees plus a raft of bad publicity.

Your best course of action is to say as little as possible and have a lot of documentation for why you fired Bill for cause.
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Old 04-27-2019, 10:55 AM
 
2,419 posts, read 689,094 times
Reputation: 3398
You can be fired for ANY reason whatsoever, except for discrimination against protected groups.
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Old 04-27-2019, 04:05 PM
 
Location: Erie, PA
2,865 posts, read 1,256,551 times
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In theory, yes the manager could fire the employee for wearing a blue shirt if s/he was working in an at-will state.

Would most managers do so though? Nope.

First of all, the majority of managers don't like to fire people because it's difficult to do so because it is never enjoyable or easy to do. It's much more preferable to try and correct the issue(s) by working with the employee. Of course if it is an egregious offense then sometimes you don't have a choice.

Second of all, employers usually prefer to have documentation through a progressive disciplinary policy. On such-and-such a date employee received a verbal warning for violating the policy, a month later s/he did it again and received a written warning, two months later no improvement was noted and s/he was placed on a PIP...and so on. Documentation makes it less likely that the employee will be able to claim discrimination or unfair treatment. It also shows that the employee was given notice of his/her behavior prior to being let go.

Finally in a company of any size, HR is going to be present. I am in HR and would look at the manager like s/he had 3 heads if they came to me and asked if s/he could fire the guy because he was wearing a blue shirt. I would tell the manager that no, s/he is not going to fire that person for wearing a blue shirt. HR generally has to review any kind of disciplinary actions (including terminations--especially terminations) to make sure they are consistent and fair. I have turned down quite a few requests for terminations in my career for either being ridiculous, unfair, or because the manager had not pursued other avenues ( training, corrective action, etc.)
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Old 04-28-2019, 09:44 AM
 
3,774 posts, read 2,033,975 times
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As arbitrary as their HR department will allow. Competent HR will put the breaks on things that put the company on bad legal footing. Incompetent HR will just rubber stamp and find a way to get the outcome the manager desires...legal ramifications be d*mned.
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Old 04-28-2019, 11:32 AM
 
9,778 posts, read 16,975,296 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by treemoni View Post
As arbitrary as their HR department will allow. Competent HR will put the breaks on things that put the company on bad legal footing. Incompetent HR will just rubber stamp and find a way to get the outcome the manager desires...legal ramifications be d*mned.
This. My employer is "at will." The discipline is progressive and the termination process is set up to withstand legal scrutiny. The legal department is often consulted prior to terminating someone. No one gets fired on a whim.
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Old 04-29-2019, 06:14 PM
 
12,296 posts, read 15,190,901 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joe from dayton View Post
This. My employer is "at will." The discipline is progressive and the termination process is set up to withstand legal scrutiny. The legal department is often consulted prior to terminating someone. No one gets fired on a whim.
That's the way it should be. Of course many if not most never established a firing policy. There is a possibility of a lawsuit if it just decides to fire one employee and not another.
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Old 04-29-2019, 07:19 PM
 
4,835 posts, read 1,537,874 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joe from dayton View Post
This. My employer is "at will." The discipline is progressive and the termination process is set up to withstand legal scrutiny. The legal department is often consulted prior to terminating someone. No one gets fired on a whim.
But in one job I had, the boss was forcing everyone to work more overtime than what we were legally required to by law. We eventually reported it to the person in HR, and then boss fired her the next day. Most likely he fired her so she would not be a problem with trying to stop the boss from forcing everyone to work overtime than what was legally required.

So aren't bosses allowed to fire on a whim therefore, if he was able to, with the HR person?
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Old 04-30-2019, 06:50 AM
 
9,778 posts, read 16,975,296 times
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I can't speak to what another company does. There are no federal laws limiting the amount of overtime an employee can work, and very few states address the matter. What law was supposedly violated regarding too much overtime?
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Old 04-30-2019, 07:05 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
23,580 posts, read 17,553,447 times
Reputation: 27645
It depends on the policies of the company.

Where I am, I don't think I personally know anyone who was fired for performance reasons. There's a progressive disciplinary policy. This is a large organization with formal processes.

The last place I worked for was a small bank. My boss had been in with the founder for over two decades at several other businesses founded by the same guy. I was on a PIP and clearly on my way out after six months with no progressive action or performance coaching. I left before I was fired. Maybe six months to a year later, a guy sends me a message on LinkedIn "wanting to talk" about that company. He went through the same thing I did but was actually fired. I believe the guy before me was also fired.
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