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Terminating the Violent Employee in Arizona

Terminating the Violent Employee in Arizona
Pat Dickson - Sat May 12, 2012 @ 07:43AM
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Joe was beside himself. He could only sit there in his chair and hide his face in his hands. He muttered a few muffled words I won't repeat, and finally looked up at me.

"I always wanted to be my own boss... ...but I have to say owning and running my own company isn't always... ...well, never mind that..."

"What happened?"

"Leroy, that's what happened. I walked out onto the shop floor and heard it with my own ears. 'I'll bust a cap in you!'" That's what he said to Johnny. They were in some sort of argument."

"That's a threat to shoot him, with a gun? To kill him?"

"Yes, that's what that means."

"Johnny's an employee, just like Leroy?"

"Yeah, and a good one. It's just me and my 5 guys. I'm the only boss."

"Did you talk to them?"

"Yeah, Leroy said it was nothing. Johnny said it wasn't the first time it had happened, and that working with Leroy made him uncomfortable. Johnny even said he might go work for Tom if he has to."

"Tom's in the same business, just down the street?"

"Yeah, and a friend of mine, but I don't want him to take Johnny. He's looking too. He just won a couple nice bids that will keep him busy."

"When did Leroy make this threat?"

"About an hour ago. That's why I asked you to get down here in a hurry."

"Do you really need Leroy?"

"No, not really. He makes a lot of mistakes and probably costs as much as he's worth. I've been cutting the guys' hours too. Work will be slow for a while. That's another problem. Johnny needs more hours because he just had a baby and got married. That's another thing that might send him to Tom, leaving me with Leroy. Wouldn't that be a joy?"

"Get rid of Leroy now. Write out his final paycheck with all his vacation and sick hours included, put 'Final Paycheck' on it, and call the police. Tell them you just heard Leroy threaten Johnny with a gun - to kill him - and you are terminating him. Give Leroy his final check as the police are escorting him out. Tell Leroy to never come back. If he does, you'll immediately call the police again, plus get a restraining order against him."

"Are you sure? Isn't that a bit harsh?"

"No. The last thing you want is a death on your hands. What's more serious than potentially having to deal with a murder in your shop?"

"Doesn't Leroy have rights?"

"Arizona is an employment at-will state. Besides, wouldn't it be better to be sued for wrongful termination than to have a body count, here at your facility, should Leroy decide to go postal? After all, he threatened to kill Johnny. Sometimes the safety and sanctity of human life is more important than a bunch of crazy employment rights politicians and judges have put together. Besides, if you had a shooting here, you'd probably be out of business anyway. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing."

"That totally makes sense! Getting rid of him is the right thing to do, even if there is some risk of being sued. Heck, I can be sued no matter what I do, right?"

"Correct. If Leroy killed Johnny you could be sued for wrongful death."

"Good grief... ...hey, by the way, why did you ask about Leroy's productivity and my workload? What's that have to do with anything?"

"Because if Leroy sues us we'll be able to tell the judge we got rid of him for 2 reasons. First, he threatened to kill a coworker. Second, even had he not made the threat he was probably going to be laid off. Business was down. He really had no expectation of continuing employment anyway."

"That's true! Come to think of it, if this hadn't happened, I was going to either lose Johnny or get rid of Leroy. I even have it written on my to-do list to call you about how to do layoffs... ...but speaking of layoffs, or even this case with Leroy, are you sure I don't have to give him a written warning or something?"

"No. Leroy threatened to kill Johnny. Plus this is an at-will state. I suppose if you did have an employee handbook, there are cases where you couldn't just get rid of him, but remember? We talked about whether you needed a handbook or not, and we decided for the time being you didn't need the administative hassle. You are a 6 man shop struggling to become a solid business. The last thing you need is a handbook that gives employees threatening to kill their coworkers the right to a written warning. Besides, as is, your guys are hourly and at-will, just as you want it. A handbook can only complicate things for you. Right now you do all the administration. Everyone is hourly. Nothing is in writing, and that is ok."

"But what if I have to go to court? I won't have a handbook or any documents to show."

"You are all the evidence needed. You would testify about how you handled things. Like with Leroy, you'd just take the stand and say you heard him threaten to kill Johnny, so you called the police and gave him his final check on the way out. Plus, business was down, and someone was going to have to go. It was Leroy."

"I see what you are saying... ...wait! What about the WARN Act?"

"It doesn't apply to you. You are too small, plus, this is a dismissal for cause matter. Leroy is an extreme safety risk. The WARN Act doesn't protect the rights of employees to threaten to kill their fellow employees."

"Ok, I guess I'm just delaying. Let's call the cops."

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