While many business owners in Pennsylvania are aware of the risks that can arise when an employee is no longer performing and needs to be terminated, they may not know how to mitigate these risks and protect themselves and their businesses properly from liability.
One part of mitigating both the professional and personal risk of termination is to have a formal termination process that involves documentation and proactive employee management. According to the Penn Record, this process helped to defeat an employee’s wrongful termination case at a Philadelphia hospital both in the original trial and on appeal. Although the employee claimed she was terminated due to age discrimination, the hospital had documentation of a series of complaints against the employee. In addition to recording the issues, management officially addressed the complaints and put the employee on an “employee action plan, before being subject to formal discipline.” By the time the final incident occurred that led to termination, the hospital had a clearly documented pattern of mistakes and opportunities for the employee to receive direction to improve.
As Business Management Daily notes, it is especially important for small business owners to understand and comply with not only federal but also local and state discrimination laws, which may expose them to personal liability in termination decisions. Not only did an employee bring a case against the medical practice that employed her, she also individually sued the doctors who ran the practice for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the latter of which allows for personal liability to apply to all “staff members who are involved in making termination decisions.” The case against all parties has been permitted to move forward, and serves as a reminder that terminating an employee can carry significant risks.