The wrongful termination of persons from their employment has become a common phenomenon affecting numerous persons from different parts of the world. Additionally, it is a phenomenon that characterizes a situation whereby an employee's work contract is terminated by an employer, and as a consequence breaching the provisions of the employment law. Today, statutes such as the U.S. Fair Labor and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) have been enacted to protect employees from unfair job termination by their employers. This research provides a comprehensive review of a recent wrongful termination case, by providing a personal position on the outcome of the case and a recommendation of how the company could have prevented the outcome.
Walker v. Verizon Pennsylvania LLC. (2017) (Rhodes, 2017)In the featured case, Verizon was ordered to pay its former employee, Walker, a sum of $619,000 for FMLA retaliation as well as age discrimination (Rhodes, 2017). In the case, Walker took an FMLA leave in 2013, which over time culminated in her unjust dismissal at Verizon Corporation (Rhodes, 2017). At the time of dismissal in 2015, Walker had been with Verizon for 36 years and she was a member of the company's design engineering team (Rhodes, 2017). Ultimately, the jury in court made a verdict in favor and awarded her a compensation of "$454,000 verdict, plus an additional $165,000 award of interest, attorney fees, and costs" (Rhodes, 2017). Also, the ruling in favor of Walker was made in a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Rhodes, 2017).
Personal Reflection on the Outcome of the Case
Personally, I was not surprised by the outcome of the case. Additionally, this is because Verizon's managers had significantly breached the FMLA as well as the age discrimination provisions in the Employment Act when firing Walker from her job position. Also, "the FMLA was designed to aid employees to balance their work and family roles by permitting them to take reasonable unpaid employment leaves for family and medical reasons" (DOL, 2018). As such, in the featured case, Walker was justified to receive the leave from work at Verizon, to attend to her injury in 2013. Additionally, it was evident that Walker had communicated well pertaining the injury to her managers before applying for the leave.
Moreover, this is can be justified by reason that Walker's supervisor had offered her a review of the injury in midyear of 2013 (Rhodes, 2017). In this case, Verizon could not have claimed that Walker's leave was for other reasons, which are not documented in the FMLA provisions. Moreover, FMLA legislations offers employees up to a period of 12 weeks of protected employment leaves annually, which are unpaid (DOL, 2018). In this case, Walker had taken a two and half months FMLA leave, which was still within the FMLA's leave threshold of 12 weeks. As such, Verizon could not have argued in court that Walker had surpassed the leave period provisioned by FMLA in 2013, to warrant a termination.
How Verizon Could Have Prevented Violating the Law and the Subsequent Lawsuit and Penalty
First, it was essential for Verizon to have monitored the operations of its managers to ensure that they applied the right evaluation systems when assessing the performance standards of employees. In this case, the managers fired Walker through unjustified standards like age discrimination, which culminated in the development of a lawsuit that cost the corporation a large sum of money. Additionally, such monitoring could have been achieved through the constant participation of top Verizon's officials and board members in the decision-making process held by the human resource managers. Subsequently, any Verizon official found out of having unethical character when terminating or hiring personnel should have been discontinued from the job position.
For instance, if Verizon's top executives could have found out the behavior of the managers involved in Walker's case earlier and terminated them from their positions, the financial loss of Verizon would not have occurred. Also, Verizon could have structured comprehensive guidelines for hiring and firing of workers from their job positions. Examples of such guidelines could have been the Employment Law and FMLA policies that provide a guideline to employers on how and when to fire personnel in the organization. Additionally, such guidelines should have been offered to all resource managers at Verizon as part of their key essentials during recruitment and retrenchment of workers.
Subsequently, by using the guidelines, the managers could not have fired Walker unjustly and in the process infringing the FMLA provisions. Also, the top officials at Verizon could have reviewed Walker's case immediately after her termination by the organization's human resource managers. Additionally, this is more so because it Walker had been a long-term loyal employee at the corporation, having labored at Verizon for 36 years (Rhodes, 2017). In this case, reviewing Walker's termination could have detected the instance of FMLA retaliation and instead reinstate her in her job position. Ultimately, this could also have aided Verizon in avoiding the lawsuit that was filed by Walker that resulted in the heavy penalty.
Lastly, the human resource management department at Verizon could have remained firm in their "rate and rank" policy, which they employ in determining the workers to retrench and those to retain. In this case, they should have fired the employee who was 12 years younger than Walker who also possessed the two lowest scores in the organization both in terms of rate and rank (Rhodes, 2017). Furthermore, the younger employee had already attained an unsatisfactory rating in terms of performance from Verizon's managers in 2013, unlike Walker whose scores were good during the same period (Rhodes, 2017). Subsequently, by doing this, Verizon could have averted the repercussions of the ruling that occurred after Walker's lawsuit.
In conclusion, the outcome of Verizon's case was not surprising because the organization's managers had significantly breached the FMLA and age discrimination provisions in the Employment Act when firing Walker from her job position. However, to protect itself from the law and penalties that occurred after the ruling of the case, Verizon should have monitored the operations of its managers. Additionally, this is to ensure that they applied the right evaluation systems when assessing the performance standards of employees before making a termination decision. Also, Verizon could have structured comprehensive guidelines for its human resource managers against hiring and firing of workers from their job positions. Lastly, the top officials at Verizon could have reviewed Walker's case immediately after her termination by the organization's human resource managers. In this case, reviewing Walker's termination could have detected the instance of FMLA retaliation and instead reinstate her in her job position
DOL. (2018). FMLA (Family & Medical Leave). Retrieved from United States Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla
Rhodes, J. (2017). Court Awards $619,000 Against Verizon for FMLA Retaliation and Age Discrimination. Retrieved from Society For Human Resource Management: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/verizon-fmla.aspx
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