'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'. This may be a bit of a cliché, but nothing is more true when it comes to employers facing wrongful dismissal claims.
Litigation is usually the last thing employers want to deal with.
Unfortunately, when an employer and a former employee can't come to an agreement regarding the terms of a severance package, litigation might end up being the only remaining option.
At Singh & Guthrie, we know that being prepared can go a long way in making the legal process more comfortable for our clients.
So in today's blog post, I'm going to discuss three general steps employers can take to make sure they're prepared when faced with wrongful dismissal claims.
Preservation is key!
It's a good idea to preserve the memories of everyone involved in the case, all the relevant documents, and the usual state of affairs.
Memories have a way of fading over time. Your business evolves, employees come and go.
Whenever you're in a position where you must let an employee go, be sure to record the memories of everyone involved in the termination.
Ask key employees (supervisors and HR representatives, for instance) to provide written statements that lay out the facts and details of the case.
Be sure to do this when the situation is still fresh in their minds. Ask them to record things like details discussed in performance management meetings, or accommodation meetings.
Written statements can be extremely helpful in figuring out the details of a case long after employees' memories have faded. This can protect you far better than vague recollections.
If you don't have a comprehensive document retention policy in place, make sure you develop one as soon as possible! These retention policies are particularly important in respect to electronic documents, like emails, text messages, instant messages, and metadata.
It can be a huge hindrance to your case if you don't have access to essential documents.
Everything from emails, written warnings, meeting specifics, handwritten notes, and even calendar appointments can be crucial in avoiding a he-said-she-said scenario.
Keep all relevant documents a minimum of 2 and a half years after the employee is terminated.
Business as Usual
It may well be tempting to discontinue a former employee's compensations when she is unwilling to accept your proposed severance package. But it is wise to be the bigger person, and continue the employee's benefits and salary, even once litigation has commenced.
In some cases, former employees have been awarded large settlements because their benefit entitlements have been terminated too soon.
As is so often the case in life, being a little organized at the outset can save you a lot of time and money down the road. If you make the above steps policy at your company, you're much more likely to emerge unscathed from a wrongful dismissal suit.