John Phillips at The Word on Employment Law has a great post up this morning on the crucial role fairness plays in employment relations. John opines (and I wholeheartedly agree) that juries in employment lawsuits often discuss "fairness." In other words, all law aside, did the employer treat the employee fairly? John focuses on 5 key areas of fairness that employers must pass for any employment decision to survive scrutiny:
- Appearance: does an employment action appear fair to an outside observer?
- Counseling: except in the most egregious of cases, was the employee told of a deficiency and given a chance to correct it?
- Consistency: are similar disciplinary problems handled similarly and to the same degree?
- Documentation: can you point to a performance review, written warning, a note in a personnel file, or some other contemporaneous piece of paper that supports the personnel decision?
- Rationale: was the employee given a reason for the decision, and was it the real reason?
These 5 areas of fairness can be succinctly summed up in what I call The Golden Rule of Employment Law. If you treat your employees as you would want to treated (or as you would want your wife, kids, parents, etc. to be treated), most employment cases would never be filed, and most that are filed would end in the employer's favor. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Juries are comprised of many more employees than employers, and if jurors feel that the plaintiff was treated the same way the jurors would want to be treated, the jury will be much less likely to find in the employee's favor.