Richard Hammar, noted attorney and largely considered the expert in church…
BEFORE YOU TERMINATE AN EMPLOYEE…DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!
Non-profit organizations are not exempt from employee EEOC complaints. We field phone calls regarding these types of complaints from our clients on a frequent basis and often we see a lack of documentation regarding the decline in employee performance that led to the termination.
For example: A church calls and states that they are going to be terminating an employee for poor work performance. The question is posed to the church about that particular employee’s last performance review. How long ago was the performance review and what was the tone or how was the employee’s review at that time? If the answer would be something like this – “It was 2 months ago and the employee actually received a raise and an exemplary review”, you could have a potential problem. In this example, the employer would need to document what took place from the prior 2-month review to the current date where the performance declined to the point of termination.
Our agency always recommends that you consult an attorney in any employee terminations but as a general rule of thumb, the organization needs to hire “at will” and always terminate for cause that is documented. Unless there is some extenuating circumstance, or criminal activity involved that would lead to immediate termination, the organization needs to make every attempt to have clearly communicated with the employee that there needs to be improvement and all this needs to be documented.
Common EEOC complaints are as follows:
- Wrongful termination
- Breach of employment contract
- Wrongful failure to promote
- Violation of employment discrimination laws (including harassment)
- Wrongful deprivation of a career opportunity
- Employment related wrongful discipline
- Negligent employee evaluation
- Employment related invasion of privacy
- Employment related defamation (including libel and slander)
- Sexual or workplace harassment
- Employment related retaliation
- Employment related humiliation
- Wrongful demotion
- Negligent reassignment
No one likes to terminate an employee, but for your best protection, keep in mind that any termination should “never be a surprise”. If it is, you probably have not done something correctly so err on the side of caution and build your case before consideration of termination.