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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 37692
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am the owner of a small company in California, and I have

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I am the owner of a small company in California, and I have a situation.... I have an employee who has been with my company for 20 years. She is very skilled and efficient, but is the most divisive, abrasive, condescending, and difficult person on my staff of 12. She has 20 year's worth of employee reviews that all say exactly the same thing; excellent at her job, very difficult to work with. I basically have mutiny on my hands with the rest of my staff-- they all, to a person, hate working with her and are asking me to take a stand. I want to let her go, but don't know how.... Can you help me?

If you want to avoid any possibility of an age or other discrimination complaint/lawsuit, then:

1. Provide the employee with a written warning carefully documenting specifics about the unacceptable conduct.
2. Tell the employee that she has 90 days to correct her conduct, by accomplishing specific changes in her behavior.
3. Tell the employee that she must achieve improvement for each one of the specific changes during each 30-day period, and her improvement will be reviewed and documented at the end of each 30-day period.
4. Ask for input from every coworker to rate the employee on a scale from 1-10, once per week during the 90 day period.
5. Use the median average rating as the employee's performance.
6. Try to find at least one employee who is not bothered by the subject employee's conduct, and interview that employee to try to find out why the employee's conduct is not offensive. You want a dissenting opinion, if you can get one, in order to try to avoid the appearance that you are engaged in a conspiracy to rid yourself of the employee.
7. As an alternative, offer the employee the option of resigning in exchange for $X and a release of all liability for any allegations of employment discrimination or other wrongful conduct by the employer. Leave the offer open until the 90 day period expires, so that she can take it and run (she probably will, if it looks like she will be terminated).

There is, of course, one other alternative. You can simply tell the employee that her services are no longer necessary, and that her last day will be ??/??/????. But, you risk the possibility of having to defend against a discrimination lawsuit. So, while you are legally entitled to terminate any employee, at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all (Cal. Labor Code 2922), I can't recommend this attenuated means of termination -- because it provides the maximum possible risk to your business.

Please let me know if my answer is helpful or if I can provide further assistance.

And, thanks for using!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Okay, I get that. I am a veterinarian, and my practice consists of me and 11 women. We work very intimately together to achieve our end point. So employee interactions have a huge impact on morale. She is a 35 yr old married mother of two. She desperately needs this job (or any other). There is no discrimination, and she knows that. I am not likely to find a dissenting opinion; 8 of my 12 women have been with me for 10+years. If she were to file a complaint would the employee evaluations and co-worker input provide a reasonable response?

If the employee is not 40 years of age or older, then there is no possibility of an age discrimination complaint. The employee would have to allege something else (race, color, nationality, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability). Since everyone is a woman other than you (I'm assuming you're a man, no offense meant if not), then it would difficult to allege sex discrimination, if every other woman employee wants the subject employee gone). That leaves race, color, nationality, sexual orientation or disability. If none of those protected groups seems likely, then you probably don't have much to worry about.

But, I would still go through the process, so that you have documentation of your efforts to positively modify the employee's behavior.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

You are simply amazing. Thank you for your time and input. Can I consult with you as this develops? Just tell me how.

Thanks for your confidence -- I'm flattered.

If you want to ask a new question, please put my userid ("To socrateaser only") at the beginning of the text of your new quesiton, and the system will send me an alert. If anyone else tries to answer, tell them you'll give them a negative rating unless they opt out immediately, and they will disappear (because a negative rating means no $$$).

Thanks again!
socrateaser, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 37692
Experience: Retired (mostly)
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