Employers must use caution when terminating an employee to protect against a wrongful termination claim. A single line in an internal email is all it takes to lose a claim, as demonstrated by a recent FMLA retaliation case.
Poor Performance Vs. Retaliation
As discussed in an article from the Society for Human Resource Management, the employer in question did its due diligence in many ways. The employer issued a series of warnings documenting the employee’s poor performance.
However, while the employee may have been performing poorly, the employee was also undergoing a health crisis and took a leave of absence that the employer granted as qualifying under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Soon after the employee returned from leave, the supervisor initiated the termination process. The supervisor sent an email to the HR department outlining the performance issues. Also listed as a reason for termination: that the employee requested a leave.
Of course, termination for use of FMLA is considered retaliation and is illegal. The case went to court and the judge found that, because of this one line in an internal email, the employer was guilty of unlawful retaliation.
How To Defend Against Retaliation Claims (Before And After They Happen)
Employers must take care to follow very strict processes when terminating employees for performance issues. An experienced attorney can help a business create employee relations policies and processes that will help to proactively fend off claims of retaliation or wrongful termination. Furthermore, in the event that a claim arises, an attorney can assist in defending the employer against the lawsuit.