The Good Deed That’s Likely to Get Punished: Waiting to Fire Someone After Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, their Birthday or Some Other Time When Everyone Should Feel Happy


EmpBlog-12.23.2013-TerminationsDespite what juries may believe, employers are made up of human beings. Typically, every one of those human beings has a heart and a conscience. Right?

While your employees may assume that the decision to fire someone was callous, bottom-line oriented and easy, that is rarely the case. Clients that I deal with typically struggle with the termination decision for weeks and sometimes months, looking for ways to avoid having to let go of the older worker, the single mom, or the long-term employee who’s helped the company grow. This is particularly true when the reason for termination is not a punch in the face, a corporate embezzlement or some other obvious extreme act that can result in nothing but immediate termination.

When the reason for firing an employee is less event-driven, such as an overall performance-based decision, employers often put it off. If the holidays are approaching, or the employee’s birthday, they almost always put it off until after the joyous occasion – no one wants to be responsible for delivering bad news at a happy time. This is a generous and human instinct, to soften the blow, to delay firing until things are less festive. Well, this Grinch is here to tell you why delay may be the good deed that’s likely to get punished!

Do you, as the employer, ever think about all the things that can happen between your decision to fire an employee and the delayed date when you actually act on that decision? No? Well, I do.

Here are some examples:

(1) The employee excitedly shares with you that she’s pregnant!

(2) The employee sadly shares you with you that he has been diagnosed with cancer, or irritable bowel syndrome, or depression.

(3) The employee unluckily gets injured moving that heavy box for a co-worker and files a worker’s compensation claim.

(4) The employee complains that his paycheck does not reflect his accurate overtime rate.

How do these types of events impact your un-manifested decision to terminate the employee? The employee is now protected from retaliation and discrimination. And you? You are stuck in the trap of your own good deed.

So what do you do about this dilemma? Hmm. That’s the question, isn’t it?

I do have some suggestions, but you will have to contact me for that…

Happy holidays!


This blog is presented under protest by the law firm of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP.  It is essentially the random thoughts and opinions of someone who lives in the trenches of the war that often is employment law–he/she may well be a little shell-shocked.  So if you are thinking “woohoo, I just landed some free legal advice that will fix all my problems!”, think again.  This is commentary people, a sketchy overview of some current legal issue with a dose of humor, but commentary nonetheless; as if Dennis Miller were a lawyer…and still mildly amusing.  No legal advice here; you would have to pay real US currency for that (unless you are my mom, and even then there are limits).  But feel free to contact us with your questions and comments—who knows, we might even answer you.  And if you want to spread this stuff around, feel free to do so, but please keep it in its present form (‘cause you can’t mess with this kind of poetry).  Big news: Copyright 2013.  All rights reserved; yep, all of them.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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