website advice for possible job termination

Below was published from the Monster.com website and is interesting information about what to look for if you think you are in danger of being terminated.


7 Signs You’re About to be Fired 

By Dominique Rodgers Monster Contributing Writer

You’ve heard the rumors in the breakroom. Layoffs are imminent. Or maybe you just didn’t meet your productivity goals last quarter and you’re nervous. Are you the one who’ll be laid off? Did your mistake cost you your job? How can you tell? Here are some signs you’re about to get the boot. Your Level of Responsibility Has Taken a Nosedive If you used to handle huge projects and now you’re fetching coffee, that’s bad. If you’re typically so busy that you barely have time to blink and now you have to ask for work, tasks have obviously been shifted to others. Career coach Chaz Pitts-Kyser says, “This means your boss is already preparing for your absence and doesn’t want too many of your assignments up in the air when he or she finally tells you you’re getting the pink slip.” The Boss Is Avoiding You “One of the biggest signs that you may be on the short list and about to be shown your way to the door is when people, including your boss or manager, begin to avoid you or become less responsive to your calls, emails, etc,” says Lin Grensing-Pophal. The human resources author advises seeking feedback in these situations rather than avoiding it. “It may represent an opportunity to turn the situation around.” You’ve Been Disciplined Recently Many people participate in their own discipline meetings and then fail to see it coming when they’re let go. Let’s face it, though, you know if you aren’t a good employee. If you’re constantly late, not meeting your sales or production goals, having problems with your co-workers, etc. then this should not be a surprise. The first meeting or write-up is a warning, the second is a gift to let you know you’re on really thin ice. The third is usually the end. All Hail the Robots! If your job can be automated, it probably will be automated. “If the type of work that you do can be done by a machine instead of a person, you may need to look for another type of job,” says career coach Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career. “It’s usually just a matter of time before your company decides that a machine can do your job for less money.” No More Professional Development If you are no longer permitted to leave for professional association luncheons or your employer withdraws prior approval for a class you wanted to take, this is a bad sign. It may be a “back door” communication strategy, according to Leigh Steere, a management coach. Steere advises employees in this situation to ask, tactfully, what is going on — and possibly to begin looking for another job. Your Company Was Recently Acquired If you work at Small Widget Factory and are bought out by Gigantic Widget Factory, chances are they already have someone there who does your job. You may be asked to remain for a while to get your counterpart at Gigantic Widget Factory up to speed, but then your duplicate position will probably be eliminated. You’ve Been Asked to Create a Job Description for Your Position If a company is in financial trouble and cutting costs, eliminating salaries is always a possibility and the company will need to prepare for when you’re gone. “One way they do that is by making a big push to get precise, updated job descriptions for everyone. The company needs to know exactly what you do so they can possibly replace you with a lower paid employee or even a temp,” says Julie Austin, founder of Fun Job Fairs. Of course there are legitimate reasons for getting job descriptions also, so context is key in this regard.


The phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ doesn’t just apply to the computer business, where it’s long been recognized that if you input faulty data into a computer program, it will process that information and yield a predictably faulty result. Likewise, an impartial decision-maker can still subject your company to liability for violation of one of the federal employment discrimination laws if their hiring or firing decision was based on “facts” or “opinions” that were tainted by another employee’s discriminatory intent.

A March 2011 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Staub v. Proctor Hospital, describes this as the “cat’s paw” theory of discrimination, and in the nine months since that decision was rendered it has been relied upon by federal courts throughout the country in allowing discrimination clams to move forward even though the actual decision-maker was admittedly unbiased. In a nutshell, the “cat’s paw” theory allows a plaintiff to prove his or her case by demonstrating that the otherwise impartial decision was tainted by discriminatory animus on the part of the plaintiff’s supervisor. The name is derived from a fable in which a monkey persuades a cat to reach into the fire to retrieve chestnuts. The cat burns its paws, and the money makes off with the chestnuts, unscathed.

In Staub, a case arising under USERRA (the federal law that protects members of the armed forces from discrimination in employment based on their military service), a supervisor fabricated a disciplinary action, based on the supervisor’s animosity toward the military obligations of the employee, who was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. The employee’s file was later reviewed by an HR manager, who made the decision to terminate the employee without researching the underlying merits of the disciplinary action. The employee, Straub, filed a grievance about the dismissal, claiming that his boss had fabricated the disciplinary action because he was angry that Straub’s military reservist obligations interfered with scheduling in the department. The HR manager, however, failed to investigate that allegation, and refused to reconsider the termination of employment. A jury found in favor of Straub, but the case was reversed on appeal due to the lack of any intentional discrimination by the HR manager who made the firing decision. Straub then appealed to the Supreme Court, and won.

The Supreme Court held that the HR manager’s lack of intent to discriminate – and lack of knowledge that the underlying disciplinary action was contrived – did not insulate the company from liability for wrongful termination in violation of USERRA.

The decision is Straub is not limited to USERRA cases. Rather, the “cat’s paw” approach it articulates has been used uniformly by federal courts in all types of employment discrimination cases.

The best approach for an employer is not to make a hasty termination decision. If you are the decision maker and you don’t have personal knowledge of the alleged misconduct by the employee, you should investigate the facts before making the decision to terminate. Make sure your disciplinary forms provide a space for employee comments on any write-up, and that there is an internal reporting procedure for employees to follow if they believe they are the victims of discrimination.


Companies who fire employees for making negative comments about their jobs on a social media site could end up in hot water with the NLRB – even if the company’s employees are not unionized.

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) enforces the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law pertaining primarily to union activity, which has been around since the 1930s. In the past, courts have held that, to a limited extent, this law also protects non-union employees, in areas such as the right to have another employee present during an employee disciplinary meeting (these are called “Weingarten Rights”), and the protection of “concerted activity” – i.e. the right of employees to meet and discuss issues such as wages, benefits and workplace safety, and to approach management to discuss those issues.

Recently, the term “concerted activity” has been applied to social network postings by employees, and civil complaints have been filed and are pending before the NLRB against companies that fired employees for positing certain comments. Not all comments are protected – they have to fall within traditional definitions of concerted activity, qualifying as a discussion between employees regarding protected activities. A recent article appearing in the Chicago Tribune provides details and insights into this evolving issue. See: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-workers-fired-over-facebook-twitter-posts-turn-to-1935-labor-law-20111202,0,6526315.story

The best approach is to review your current HR policies to ensure that they do not prohibit protected “concerted activity” by employees, and obtain legal advice on this issue before you terminate an employee based on their use of social media to air complaints about a supervisor or other workplace issues.