Thursday, October 7, 2010

Firing by voicemail isn’t illegal, but…

4616439044_77b37c4d1e_m Joyce Gaskins sued The Mentor Network-REM following her termination. REM’s cardinal sin that led to the filing of this lawsuit was that it notified Gaskins of her termination by voicemail. In short order, the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Gaskins’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress:

Gaskins’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is based on the fact that REM terminated her via voicemail, which she argues is not standard procedure. This is simply not the sort of outrageous or egregious behavior contemplated for this intentional tort.

As this opinion illustrates, there is nothing illegal about terminating an employee by voicemail, email, text message, Facebook, Twitter, or the like. But, as this case also illustrates, employers nevertheless often pay a price for not treating terminated employees with decency. No matter the ills that led to Gaskins’s termination, she deserved to be told of her fate in person. Treating an employee poorly at termination might not be illegal, but it may lead to the bad feelings that cause lawsuits to be filed. It is not unheard of for a company to pay upwards of $50,000 to have even the most meritless employment disputes dismissed. How much is it worth to you to avoid the uncomfortableness of a face-to-face termination?

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