Finish the staff as gently as possible

Finish the staff as gently as possible

Employers must be careful in how they treat terminated employees throughout the process. It’s a rough time for anyone, whether they deserve it or not. Some case law indicates that if an employer is dishonest, misleading, or inappropriately insensitive during dismissal, it may result in separate damages and regardless of any pay rather than notice or lost wages. Also, if the employer vainly attacks the employee’s reputation with announcements made at the time of dismissal, such severe damages may ensue.

Alison thought she had a case for serious damages. She worked with the company for three years in a sales manager role when she gave a PowerPoint presentation to her bosses. She was not satisfied with her job and wanted the company to create a new position for her as COO. In the PowerPoint presentation, she mentioned her struggles with another manager. The PowerPoint presentation included phrases such as “It’s time to move on” and “I need to move away from the sales manager role as it evolves into the current iteration.” She said she wanted to stay with the company and be a part of the future, but had to change attitudes for her mental and physical health. Her superiors were confused. They weren’t sure if she was resigning or not. A manager asked her if she was resigning or if she wanted some type of paid or unpaid leave. She explained that she did not quit, but about a week later she was fired.

Alison claimed her dismissal occurred while she was sitting outside and left her struggling to secure alternative medical coverage. It also aggravated her known illness. She said her boss’s suggestion that she resign or that she should be given leave was bad faith, unfair, and caused her great distress.

In order to get that serious damage, Allison had to prove something beyond normal distress and hurt feelings that always accompany job loss. Case law says Allison had to demonstrate serious, long-term distress that goes beyond normal emotional distress or distress. The behavior can be insensitive but does not amount to the inappropriately insensitive behavior required to attract serious harm. The fact that the employer could have handled the termination better does not mean, in and of itself, that such compensation will be awarded.

An example where significant compensation was awarded was a termination interview where a long-term employee was told that his or her behavior was shameful and that it was an embarrassment. They were told they could resign or be given unpaid leave pending termination of service. It wasn’t terminated until a month later. Heavy compensation was awarded.

The judge in Alison’s case sympathized with his employer. They stumbled upon the termination process but were confused by its presentation. On the one hand, she said that she was not happy and wanted to leave her role in the company, but she also said that she wanted to stay with the company but for them to take on a new role for her.

The court found that Alison’s employer was not overly insensitive and that the anxiety she experienced was normal for someone who had been terminated and should seek alternative employment and health insurance.

Alison got the payments required under her employment contract to terminate the contract but no more than that. An unexpected ending is always terrible. Worse when it appears to be performance related. It is a blow to one’s sense of self-worth and dignity. Although Alison was unsuccessful in her severe damages claim, employers should be careful. They should always put the feelings and dignity of the employee being fired first. It is not only the right thing to do, but the wise thing to do.


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