You discriminated — and I have the e-mail to prove it
Do your managers know how to avoid writing e-mails that lead to huge legal trouble? Here’s an example of some supervisors who learned the hard way.
A 62-year-old employee was fired and believed it was because of her age.
According to the company, she was fired for poor performance. The woman had been placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP), and her manager kept a record of her weaknesses dating back several months before the termination.
But when the employee took the company to court, the judge ruled in her favor. Why?
The decision hinged on one piece of evidence: e-mails sent between two of the company’s managers before the employee was placed on the PIP.
According to the judge, the e-mails made it clear the bosses wanted to fire her before there were any documented problems. First, one manager suggested letting her go in a reduction-in-force. The second felt that would open the door to a lawsuit and recommended making it a “performance issue.”
Once that evidence came up in court, the judge ruled age was the real reason she was fired.
E-mail creates permanent evidence
The lesson in this case for your managers: Everything they say in an e-mail is recorded — permanently.
Sensitive issues like terminations should never be discussed over e-mail. If an employee sues, those messages will end up in court — and there’s no telling how judges will interpret what they read.
Cite: Parks v. Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.