Monday, May 10, 2010

Does the punishment fit the crime in your workplace?

Last week, this happened at a Philadelphia Phillies game:


A fan ran onto the field, and was promptly tasered by the police.

“What does this have to do with employment law,” you might be asking yourself? The Philadelphia police department is in he middle of a debate as to whether its use of a Taser was necessary or excessive. While your employees are likely at-will, you will be embroiled in the same debate when you defend a termination in court. While you have the legal right to terminate an employee at any time for any reason, juries will be asking themselves if the punishment fits the crime. If it does not, they will look for another reason for the punishment—such as discrimination.

When you make the difficult decision to terminate an employee, ask yourself: Do the actions really warrant termination? How have we treated other employees under similar circumstances? Is there a lesser punishment we can live with? Or, is the action so bad that termination is necessary? Judges and juries will be asking these questions when they decide your case. It is probably a good idea for you to also ask them of yourself.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or