Tuesday, May 24, 2011
How To Fire An Employee--and Not Get Sued
If you ever get cheated out of your job, as Mrs. Schnauzer and I have been, here is one of the first truths you will learn about the employment-law racket: For every lawyer who represents plaintiffs in employment cases, there are probably a dozen who represent defendants.
In fact, that ratio is way too conservative; it probably should be more like 1:25. That so many more lawyers would rather represent business types than regular people says a lot about the legal profession. It tells you that there is more money to be made from representing people who commit wrongs than representing the victims of wrongdoing.
That's not to say that all employment complaints are meritorious. My guess is that a fair amount are weak or downright bogus. But I would also suggest that quite a few, maybe half (just to put a general number on it), are solid to very strong. Certainly you wonder how the legal profession justifies the lopsided ratio in favor of lawyers who represent defendants.
Here is another truth you will quickly learn: Many law firms that represent plaintiffs in employment cases are one- or two-person shops, with limited resources; most of the firms that represent defendants are the biggies, the kind who can throw four or five lawyers at you and almost bottomless resources. In Birmingham, outfits like Bradley Arant, Haskell Slaughter, Balch and Bingham, Maynard Cooper and Gale, Sirote and Permutt, and Burr Forman all have "labor and employment" sections that represent only defendants.
Based on my quick research, it appears these firms have anywhere from 12 to 30 lawyers who specialize in labor and employment law. Combined, that is more than 100 lawyers, just in six Birmingham firms, who represent only defendants in employment cases. I might need to rethink that 1:25 ratio.
All of these firms have Web pages that feature high-minded rhetoric about how they want to help management avoid employment problems before they get started. That sounds reasonable. But this information apparently never made it to the two places where Mrs. Schnauzer and I worked--Infinity Property and Casualty and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). In fact, I would bet this information never makes it to many employers--or the employers who do have it willingly ignore it.
My favorite bit of advice for management types comes from the Birmingham firm of Leitman Siegal Payne and Campbell. It's titled "Ten Rules on How to Fire an Employee--and Not Get Sued." I like a law firm that doesn't pussyfoot around. And you have to admire the sense of "underhanded honesty" that is inherent in that title. (You can read the document at the end of this post.)
We already have written about the utter cluelessness UAB's in-house counsel and HR types exhibited in my termination. Now we will go into more detail, looking at how both UAB and Infinity failed to take the simplest steps to avoid employment problems before they started.
In fact, we will show that both UAB and Infinity seemingly went out of their way to create problems where none existed. And we will grade these august organizations on each of the 10 rules. Trust me, it's going to get ugly.
(To be continued)
How to Fire an Employee--And Not Get Sued