Why Oh Why?

January 27, 2009 at 2:50pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Unicameral is considering a bill (LB107) that would require employers to give employees a reason why they are being fired. The text of the law:

No employee ... shall be terminated from employment until such employee has been given the specific reason for the proposed termination and the employee is provided a meaningful opportunity to present the employee’s position in response to the reason for the proposed termination.

The first part of this section of the law requires a reason. But what is a “specific reason”? To me “we no longer need your services” is a specific reason, and yet those are basically the words one of the people who testified in favor of the bill thinks are insufficient. Is “we don’t want you to be our employee any more” valid?

The second part of the quoted section gives employees a chance to rebut. Fantastic. The law actually requires employers to permit a potentially-infuriated ex-employee to argue. How is that going to benefit anybody? It doesn’t benefit the employer; she has to be careful she doesn’t inadvertently invite a rebuttal that scares away customers, for example. It doesn’t help the employee; it gives the employee an opportunity to say or do something stupid that won’t do him any favors on his job hunt.

In addition, the law feels like a bit of a liability trap for employers. If an employer doesn’t word his “specific reason” very carefully, he could expose himself to legal troubles. As a result, employers that consult an attorney will all end up giving out a boilerplate “specific reason” that doesn’t actually mean anything at all. Employers that do not consult an attorney—most likely to be small, local businesses—will occasionally choose their words poorly and wind up in court. The little guy loses, and the employee doesn’t win.

Is there a way to achieve the goals of the bill in any meaningful way without facing the problems I noted?

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The Comments

Gene January 27, 2009 at 5:50pm

And who defines what “a meaningful opportunity to present the employee

Peter January 27, 2009 at 7:12pm

The bill would essentially change Nebraska from a “at will employment” state to a non “at will”.

Pretty serious ramifications for employers contemplating Nebraska for new locations, and those considering leaving.

Dave K January 27, 2009 at 7:29pm

You make it sound like the Unicameral makes laws without considering the consequences.

CS January 29, 2009 at 5:08pm

I think the intent is good, and the wording bad. It’s difficult to get a job or even an interview if the prospective employer calls up a past employer and are spoon fed the dates of employement only because of liability or privacy reasons, and then they ask the employee (if you get that far) and they don’t know either. In a perfect world the Employer would just document whatever it was that got the employee terminated and furnish it to them on their way out the side door. It’s what I did with mine when I was in a position to have to manage that sort of thing. You have it in writing, they have it in writing, end of story.

Fletch January 31, 2009 at 4:04pm

This is a bad idea. People already have to be too afraid of lawsuits and whatnot - is someone words a “reason” in the wrong way, it could be trouble.

Let’s be honest. From time to time, people really do get fired and it is shocking and seems out of the blue. However, more often than not, the firee deserves it, and everyone around knows it. The only one surprised is the one who gets fired. Then they seem mad and that it’s all everyone else’s fault.

My analogy would be the rotton singer in the American Idol audition. Everyone in the room just saw and heard it, and it’s pretty obvious, except to the singer. Because Mom has always said he/she is the best. His/her friends say he/she is awesome. Suddenly the judges are the dumbest people on the planet, they’ll be proven wrong, etc. etc.  But really, it’s pretty clear.

Any way, I don’t like the idea of this law.

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