Employment Posters Guide

Download the 2018 employment posters required by State and Federal law for free.

« Oregon Bill to Protect Marijuana Use | Main | Statewide Boycott of Perrin & Thayer »

Don't Let Problem Employees Become "Bulletproof"

It happens over and over again. Employees who don't measure up, who may be on the verge of termination, complain about a workplace condition, file a worker's compensation claim or engage in other protected activity and now you can not fire them.

Once an employee says that he or she has been injured, complains of a condition they say they believe is unsafe, claims they have been harassed or takes other action that is protected by state or federal law, the employee can become all but "bulletproof." Employers are reluctant to fire these people even if plans were already under way to do just that. Settlements in retaliation claims between 1998 and 2004 averaged $845,147. Employers are at great risk.

There are answers. You begin by hiring right. This will be covered in future issues of LegalBriefs. Second, when it is clear that a person is not working out in your organization, take action – don't delay. Finally, there is an effective, all but risk-free way you can discipline or terminate poor performers who believe they are "bulletproof." Disciplining bulletproof employees will be covered in the next issue.

It is absolutely imperative that you deal with poor performers and problem employees immediately. Once you see signs that an employee is failing to meet your expectations, you need to deal with the situation.

All too often, employers and their supervisors delay. They put up with poor performers or unacceptable conduct. Maybe they are trying to avoid dealing with unpleasantness. Maybe they think that by some miracle the employee will improve. Maybe they are consumed by other problems and don't take time to focus on this employee. Maybe the business is shorthanded and they don't want to lose another body.

Whatever the reason, delay simply allows problem employees time to find a way to become bulletproof.

There are steps you can, and must, take as soon as it is evident than an employee may not work out. These steps are in the employee's best interest and they are absolutely required to protect your business and the livelihood of all of your other employees.

Do: Do deal with performance problems and unacceptable conduct immediately.

Don't: Don't delay. If an employee fails to meet your expectations, let them know immediately.

Do: Do document all employee issues in supervisor logs as discussed in the October 18, 2000 issue of LegalBriefs, Prevent 101 Problems with a Supervisor's Log.

Do: Do take disciplinary action, up to and including termination, when employees do not work out.

Don't: Don't delay taking action when an employee does not work out. You may have to pay a heavy price for failing to act.

Do: Do remember the old ad "hire slowly, fire quickly." Following this simple advice can save you a fortune in attorney fees, not to mention disruption to your business and drain on management time and energy.

Do: Do consider bringing workers in first as temporaries for evaluation before hiring them full-time.

Do: Do hire employees for an initial term of fixed duration. Have employees sign an initial contract for 30, 60 or 90 days. Employers tell me that within this time, they know whether a new hire will work out. They fail to take action, however, within this time and suffer the consequences later. A contract with appropriate safeguards requires you to make a decision before it is too late. With a properly drafted agreement, you can enter into full-time employment, you can allow the agreement to expire by its terms or, if there are doubts, you can enter into another temporary agreement.

Don't: Don't fail to determine after 30, 60 or 90 days whether a new hire is working out. The sooner you recognize this, the easier it is to terminate the employee and the less risk there will be to your business.

Don't: Don't use a standard "probation period." As discussed in previous issues of LegalBriefs and in my many seminars, this can have unintended consequences that can be a disaster for your business.

Don't: Don't forget that if an employee is not working out, you are not doing him or her a favor by delaying action. The sooner you recognize this and the sooner you make a decision, the sooner the employee can find a job where they do fit in and obtain the satisfaction that comes from performing the right work at the right place.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.