Anyone can sue anyone for anything.
Use a lawnmower for a hedge trimmer – there’s a lawsuit for that. Climb over a barbwire fence into the lions’ exhibit and get mauled – there’s a lawsuit for that. A burglar sprains his back while stealing valuables from your home – yes, there’s a lawsuit.
You don’t want litigation with your layoff – regardless of merit.
Perhaps an employment related claim will be dismissed. If, in fact, the action does move forward toward a courtroom, a MSJ - “motion for summary judgment” may be the next request. The MSJ requests a ruling that “there is no case” against the employer. Sounds pretty good, no harm no foul right? No way. Legal defense costs related to an MSJ could look like $60,000 or more. Talk about losing by winning!
Since no one wants litigation, what is the antidote? Like most legal answers, it depends. However let’s put some important points on the table.
Aim twice… fire once.
Planning a layoff starts long before, “we have some difficult news to share with you all today.” I have participated in over 8,000 employee terminations and seen many go horribly wrong. Most were due to lack of adequate planning. Take a look at our Employee Termination Checklist.
One thing more expensive than expert advice…cheap advice.
The “savings” of avoiding an employment attorney’s fee with freebees from the Internet doesn’t make cents or dollars. You wouldn’t ask your family doctor to do your knee replacement. You’d insist on a specialist. The alphabet soup of acronyms and legal compliance in employment and labor law requires an attorney who specializes in this complex area of law and is up to date on today’s issues.
You’ve seen it all, done this for years.
Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto (and Silver). Don’t go it alone without legal review, planning and a very important helper – Dise & Company, on-site the day of the termination notification. We are the Outplacement Experts. All the best planning can go awry when the excrement hits the rotating ventilation device and PEOPLE get involved with the termination. Even though you are an experienced pro, don’t go into this battle alone.
Treat others with dignity.
Script out your communication because you may hear your words again… in a deposition. Many words should NOT be said by the employer in a termination meeting, “this is really hard for me.” If you aren’t getting laid off, you have on-going income and benefits, it doesn’t really matter if you had trouble sleeping last night. “It’s not about you… it’s just business.” Losing a job is always personal, regardless of the business issues.
Your messaging can have unintended consequences. Nothing will make a lay-off feel better than what it is. Compliments too often feel like salt in the wounds instead of encouragement. Even phrases like, “who knows… we may have something open up for you in the future,” can paralyze laid off employees from taking needed action to move forward and capture a new job. Clearly state that employment is over today.
It’s perfectly legal to thank a departing employee. It’s also legal and humane to say you are sorry about how things have worked out.
Take care of your Ambassadors.
Displaced employees will represent your organization forever. They will never forget how you took care of them on the layoff. Pay for professional help to accelerate their re-employment in a new job. This is Outplacement. Give them reasonable severance pay to help in their transition. It’s more than the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.
Every layoff and employee termination is different. Few are easy. We get it. We can help. One employer told me, “I wouldn’t dream of terminating an employee without your help.”
Contact Dise & Company for a confidential conversation on potential termination.