Manager didn’t document, now firm pays 46.6 mil
You know the drill: Document, document, document. But managers don’t always follow that drill. And a recent case shows the damages a company can face when if a manager doesn’t keep current documentation.
An employee was asked to fire three workers in his department. He refused — they were all around 60 years old, and he believed the firings would constitute age discrimination.
The company fired him soon after, citing performance reasons. He sued for retaliation.
The timing already looked bad enough for the company, but here’s the kicker: Without documentation to support the employee’s poor performance, his manager tried to make up his own paper trail after the termination.
In court, the company submitted as evidence an e-mail sent to the employee from his boss, criticizing his performance. The problem was, as a court computer expert discovered, the e-mail was actually written two weeks after the lawsuit was filed and doctored to look like it was older.
The case went before an Ohio jury, which decided in the employee’s favor and awarded him the biggest verdict in Ohio history. The final price tag: $3.5 million for the employee’s lost wages and a whopping $43.1 million in punitive damages for tampering with the evidence.
No doctored documentation
If an employee has performance problems, but there’s no written proof, many managers might not think twice before writing something down later. But as this case shows, phony documentation is often worse than no documentation at all.
What’s can HR do? Regularly remind managers about the importance of having timely documentation — and help them understand that if they don’t, there isn’t much they can do about it.
Few things look worse to a judge or jury than evidence being destroyed or created once a company finds out it’s being sued.
Cite: Luri v. Republic Services of Ohio, LLC