After some 30 years of managing and consulting in corporate America, I have heard and experienced my fair share of dismissals, whether they be rightfully or wrongfully handled. But, one thing is for sure, if the company needs to involve a law firm, it is going to cost considerable money in lost lawsuits and/or heavy-duty legal fees. In Clare Goldsberry's May 8, Page 20 story, Linn A. Hynds stated that every employer should have an employment-at-will clause clearly articulated. Let's be realistic, if a professional was asked to quit his existing employer, relocate and handed an ``at-will contract'' to sign, what should be his gut-level feeling? He would probably be saying to himself. ``Do I really want to leave my existing employer to come to work for this firm?''
And if he says, ``I can't sign this contract now until I have my lawyer look at it,'' the company reaction probably would be ``Do I want to hire this guy?''
Let's face it, this is no way to start a mutual-trusting, team-building relationship. I do agree that a contract is the best protection, but it should be a good, ethical and fair contract that benefits and protects employer and employee. The contract doesn't have to be written in legal jargon that is slanted towards the employer. It can be a basic, simple contract that lays out a fair compensation package if severance of employment is necessitated in the first year of the contract, and a compensation package after the first year.
It was stated in the article that employees win 70 percent of wrongful dismissal suits. From my experience and research I can only say ``rightfully so.'' It is amazing that in 1995 some 95 percent of companies have a terrible dismissal policy, which usually means none at all! The horror stories of terrible dismissal procedures that could invite lawsuits could fill this publication for the balance of the year. Examples such as:
Being fired on Daughter Day with your daughter present.
Being told over the phone by the president that there is an important message coming over the fax. The message reads: ``You are fired and tell everyone else in the office they are fired also.''
The president who asked the employee to put his speaker phone on so the whole office could hear the verbal berating prior to the firing.
Again, 95 percent of companies large and small do not have a fair or ethical dismissal policy and stand the risk of wrongful dismissal suits and do very little, if anything, about sexual harassment and other illegal discrimination issues.
If there is a wrong way to dismiss then the opposite is also true: There is and can be a right way to dismiss. No one likes to be fired, but employers must learn the fair and ethical way of letting go professionals as well as production line workers.
Andre R. Fredette
New Horizon Concepts