New Jersey employers: Document disciplinary action for protection


New Jersey businesses have a lot to worry about: the economy's slow recovery, creating jobs and business taxes, to name a few. Ideally, employment litigation isn't among these worries.

Wrongful termination suits can be costly, time-consuming and stressful. Even if they are from an at-will employee -- meaning they can be terminated without cause -- there are obvious reasons to try to avoid such a confrontation.

These suits aren't always avoidable, though, and New Jersey employers, regardless of size, should be prepared. One of the best ways to be prepared for an unforeseen lawsuit is good documentation. This means assuming every termination, no matter the situation, will lead to litigation.

No one wants to be constantly looking over his or her shoulder for the threat of litigation, and that isn't required. A clear, detailed record of every incident will be the best defense for any wrongful termination suit because a former employee who wishes to file a suit will challenge every aspect of his or her termination.

On a positive note: courts generally don't want to second-guess employers' decisions about disputes in the workplace. A recent case is a good example. An African-American woman filed a complaint with the government about her employer. She was later fired after receiving five disciplinary citations in just six weeks. The woman then sued her employer, claiming she was fired in retaliation for her complaint.

Because the employer had documented each disciplinary action and its rationale, the court was able to conclude the termination was not retaliatory. It is common sense that a court will believe an employer that has evidence to back up his or her decisions. Businesses that remember this and document accordingly can benefit later.

Source: Business Management Daily, " Always assume termination will be challenged," May 20, 2012