The press is reporting the settlement of yet another wrongful-termination case grounded on a former employee’s claim that she was fired for whistleblowing. The employer paid nearly $1 million — almost half of which goes to the fomer employee’s attorney, according to the employer’s Web site — after having spent more than $300K defending the case. See this story at the law.com Web site. This story illustrates the hazards of letting an employee go if the employee had any connection at all with uncovering alleged corporate improprieties.
The story is also a nice opportunity to recall the wisdom of keeping fair and accurate written records to document employee performance. If you’re a manager who wants to get rid of a worthless employee, don’t believe that your cheery smile and golden voice alone will convince a jury that the employee really did deserve firing. Juries often discount witness testimony, especially by defendants seen as trying to make excuses for their actions. Juries also tend to believe written business records and other contemporaneous documentary evidence. So if you keep decent records about your employees, you’ll be better armed if you ever find yourself in a lawsuit — and good records might even help you be a better boss.