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9/17/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Opinion: Termination Without Litigation

By Howard Kurman, Chairman, Labor & Employment Practice Group, and

Julius Steiner, Principal, Offit Kurman Law Firm

With unemployment a lingering national problem, it’s not surprising that “wrongful termination” lawsuits have become something of a cottage industry.

There are any number of attorneys happy to assist employees who feel they were fired without cause, and as a result, employers are finding themselves in a morass of logistical and legal problems even if the reasons for termination to them seem inarguably “with cause.”

If unemployment remains a constant, the problem of layoffs and lawsuits could be particularly thorny for large, national trucking operations that give the impression — if not quite the reality — of deep pockets. But it is essential that even smaller carriers protect themselves and their other employees ahead of time, and not just go ahead with the termination and react to whatever happens as it is happening.

The key to this is to be proactive with a proper workplace investigation conducted before the actual termination in such a way that your defenses are up and running and ready. The following are some do’s, don’ts and general guidelines for such an investigation:

• Begin by adequately investigating any complaints or performance issues with an employee subject to termination. Skipping this may expose you and your company to liability unnecessarily.

• In general, workplace investigations are necessary to ensure objectivity — and also demonstrate that enough fact-finding was undertaken before the severe action of employee termination.

While conducting an investigation:

• Ensure that all relevant resources have been assembled and assessed.

• Fully go over all performance reviews and disciplinary records to ensure that when it comes, the termination message is clear, consistent and supported by a written record.

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