As employment law constantly changes, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman stay up to date on the law as it develops. Our blog topics focus on those changes and what you need to know about them, ranging from severance agreements and the FLSA to social media in the workplace and recent court decisions. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Document Now, Fire Later

GavelIn our last two posts, we discussed terminating an employee and the importance of documentation. Earlier this week, in an opinion issued by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, Employers were provided with another example of why documentation is so important in the employer/employee relationship.  

The Case

The facts of the case are fairly straightforward: (1) Employee was terminated due to poor performance; (2) At the time she was terminated she was also pregnant; (3) Employee filed a lawsuit claiming pregnancy discrimination under Title VII. 

Before she was terminated, employee was unable to work for a month due to complications with the pregnancy.  Upon her return to work she was terminated.  She was told that it was best for the company and her to part ways.  The employee speculated that based on the timing of the firing and based on her own belief, the termination had to be due to her pregnancy.

Employee’s case was dismissed by the trial court.  Employer provided internal emails which showed that the employee had performance issues that predated her pregnancy.  The employee did not dispute the employer’s claims.  These emails combined with affidavits from subordinates complaining about employee were enough for the trial court to dismiss the Title VII claim on summary judgment.

This case shows the importance of documentation, especially when it comes to employee performance and subsequent termination.  While the email documentation retained by the employer was not the optimal method of tracking performance, it was strong evidence that was enough to prevent the case from going to trial. 

Practice Pointers

It cannot be stressed enough, when an employee violates a company policy or is not meeting the minimum job requirements, the issue must be documented.  The extra time spent now will save a ton of headaches and legal fees later.