Have you recently been let go or are you afraid you will be? Does your employer have a history of successfully firing employees for illegal reasons? You may know your termination was illegal, but think that suing your employer is pointless because they know how to get away with it. But that’s not necessarily true! Employers make mistakes all the time, sometimes without realizing it.
Here are five mistakes your boss may have made that will be helpful to your wrongful termination case!
Ignoring the Employee Manual
Most companies have very strict rules for firing someone that can include everything from verbal and written warnings to probation and suspensions. But rules work both ways, and if you are in this situation, you should read your employee handbook to make sure your boss followed all the rules. If she didn’t, the jury may perceive her actions as deceptive and manipulative for the purpose of being able to fire you for cause. If this has happened to you, document as much as you can, and provide this information to your lawyer.
Satisfactory Performance Reviews
Many managers give employees satisfactory performance reviews rather than accurate evaluations of their performance. This is a natural way to avoid conflict, and while these aren’t the “good” or “excellent” ratings you probably want as an employee, “satisfactory” work means just that: you satisfied the requirements of the job. If your performance evaluations over time define your work as satisfactory, but you were fired for performance, you have a nice piece of evidence that your termination was wrongful.
Moving the Goalposts
This can be incredibly frustrating in the moment because no matter what you do, you can’t satisfy your employer. Your manager addresses one supposed problem with you, but as soon as you fix it, he invents another problem you need to focus on. And no matter how many of these you address, you wind up fired. During this exchange, as anxiety causing it is, your manager is actually doing you a huge favor. By continually changing the story as to why you are being terminated, the evidence stops pointing toward you being fired because of A, B or C, and toward you being fired no matter what. In court, this will reflect badly on your employer, not you.
Too Much Documentation
But isn’t documentation good? How could this possibly work in my favor? If you’ve been at your job for awhile and your personnel file is filled with satisfactory performance reviews, a few vacation requests and an address change, you’re considered a normal employee. When your file suddenly starts filling up with negative reports and write-ups for every little thing, it’s pretty easy for a jury to make the connection that your employer was probably up to something. All those write-ups for minor infractions makes it pretty easy to show you were being unfairly targeted rather than actually doing anything wrong. This type of documentation especially works in your favor if you can show that co-workers were engaging in the same behavior without being written up for it.
The type of boss who targets someone for termination is probably the same type of person who won’t come off well to the jury. Even though it’s not direct evidence, the way a person is perceived does affect the outcome of cases. Being rude or aggressive on the stand can greatly impact who the jury believes, especially if they are being accused of the very behavior they are demonstrating.
Remember, even though it may feel like your employer has the advantage, a lawyer will be able to guide you through a wrongful termination suit and help you see where you may have the advantage! To discuss your case with us, contact us here!
photo credit: Dplanet:: via Flickr cc by 2.0
photo credit: Caitlin Childs via Flickr cc by-sa 2.0
photo credit: Johann Dréo via Flickr cc by 2.0