“Up in the Air” Employment Practices Could Land you “Down in the Courthouse” - Quinley On Claims News Insurance Claims Adjuster Property and Casualty Insurance Claims Adjuster,insurance newsletters,independent adjuster newsletters,claims adjuster newsletters,insurance adjuster newsletters,quinley, kevin quinley, ahmed, visibillity,Bernazzani, Newsletters, Claims-Portal.com

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“Up in the Air” Employment Practices Could Land you “Down in the Courthouse”
By Kevin Quinley

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“Up in the Air” is rightly heralded as one of the best movies of the past year. George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate nomad man who flies around the country implementing reductions in force for client corporations. Bingham is a virtuoso at one-on-one exit sessions with employees that he terminates. Driving his peripatetic lifestyle is his personal quest to accumulate ten million frequent-flier miles and all the perks that go with that. Additionally, he is phobic about getting entangled in deep relationships or commitment to others. His frequent flier mileage goal is jeopardized, however, when his company adopts the advice of a young MBA-type whippersnapper to conduct termination exchanges remotely via videoconferencing, negating the need for travel and capturing huge savings.

“Up in the Air” is highly entertaining, though not necessarily accurate with regard to the rigors and frustrations of business travel. Not once during the movie does the protagonist suffer any flight delays, cancellations, missed connections or lost luggage. Viewers are spared the delights of pulling into a Hampton Inn at 2:30 AM prior to an 8:00 AM meeting with a client. But we must remind ourselves that – like any movie -- this is fiction.

“Up in the Air” inspired some musing as to what might happen if companies actually utilize this technique for terminating workers. Most likely it would result in a surge of employment practices liability claims.

There are at least two reasons for this. First, outsourcing the job of canning people would certainly be perceived as a gutless gesture. If a company lacked the fortitude to conduct exit sessions itself, hiring an outsider to come in and do it would be perceived as an entirely weasel option.

Second, compounding this insult by adding injury and having the exchange conducted by videoconferencing would seem to terminated employees as being extremely callous. These factors would heighten the incentive for employees to file employment practices discrimination and liability claims, alleging wrongful discharge, discrimination, etc. Even if such claims were groundless, the legal costs and management time involved in defending such claims would be a drag on the organization.

Another potential liability claim inferred by the movie surfaces when one of the terminated employees makes an offhand remark that she was going to jump off of a bridge. The comment is made in a jocular fashion. However, months later, Ryan Bingham learns that the woman did in fact kill herself by jumping off a bridge into a river. Bingham's boss probes to see if the terminated employee gave Bingham any verbal indication (read, “legal notice”) during the exit interview of this potential a suicidal tendency. (He lies and claims that there was no sign.)

One way to prevent employment practices claims is to treat departing employees with dignity and respect. In one heralded case, employees received a toll-free “800” number and were told to call. When they phoned, a recording informed them that they had been terminated. When Commercial Financial Services discharged 1500 employees in 1999, it did so via e-mail.

These are examples of how not to handle layoffs. Instead, exhibit sensitivity and compassion. Alert Security to be available if needed, but avoid having guards escort people out of the building or plant, unless there is a compelling need.

“Up in the Air” is good entertainment, as well as an instructive example of how NOT to handle layoffs or employee terminations. Embracing the employment practice portrayed by “Up in the Air” would land a company “Down in the Court Docket”!

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