With the rate drop, the mortgage industry in my area has taken a tumble. I had to let go of a processor, "Jane" that was doing an excellent job, I thought alot of her, but she was the newest of the least experienced and that is why she was chosen to be let go.

I am the Area Manager, I work inside of a branch, so my Branch Manager is also in the same branch. However, "Jane" desk is right outside of my office.
We were supposed to let go several people on Friday, but for some strange and odd reason, our computer support people terminated her password a day early, which put me in a very difficult position. I was completely blindsided, and not prepared. I had not yet received their final paychecks from corporate, nothing.

"Jane" popped her head in my office and asked if she was "fired and no one told her" because her password wasn't working, as if it was a joke. I about died because I knew what had occurred. THE MISTAKE that I think I made, was that I said as a kneejerk reaction, "Of course not..that's ridiculous"..sincerely thinking it was a computer glitch, but only for that day. I told her I would see what I could do to fix it.

I shut my door and called my Branch Manager and told him that he needed to terminate her immediately because obviously something had got messed up at our Help Desk and there was no way I could fix it to get her through the day.
It was 30 minutes before I could reach someone to find out what I needed to do because I didn't have her termination paperwork, as it was supposed to come from corporate. In that 30 minutes, "Jane" had went to several other co-workers to offer assistance in the meantime and said, "I guess the system fired me" and laughed, and mentioned that she had just spoken to me and I had assured her it was a mistake.

When we got our ducks in a row, by now it's 9:00 and everyone is in the office, the Branch Manager calls her in and tells her that she is being laid off, was elibile for rehire, etc.

She bursts into tears, but was not making a scene, but unfortuantely, it was obvious to the rest of the employees that she had just been let go. The Branch Manager had to escort her to clean out her desk and then out of the building. Several employees had called her during the day, and at lunch, and she told them what happened. She was never instructed not to mention the incident to anyone, but now everyone is wondering if more layoffs were coming.

I'M AFRAID OF BEING SUED NOW, because she is telling everyone how humiliated she was. She isn't bashing the company in any way, suprisingly, or management. She just said she was upset because I should have told her, and that I lied to her (which I did, and made a mistake in doing that) but I was just having her to go to who was in charge of the Branch. If she was in any other Branch, I wouldn't have been present at all.

I DIDN'T WANT IT TO HAPPEN THIS WAY! I was fully planning on having her come in early tomorrow so all of this could happen in private, and she could tell people that she decided to quit if she wanted to. I'm still afraid that her humiliation will turn to anger and I can be sued because of the way I handled it.

She is a great employee, and I wished I could have kept her, but she needed a job very badly, but there was nothing I could do. Job market is tight right now, and she is afraid of not being able to find another job.


  • 7 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Well, I am not a lawyer, but I do not think there is any basis for a lawsuit here. I do not see monetary damages. You got taken by surprise, and the fact that things were mishandled outside of your branch should be a lesson for all concerned. More layoffs are coming, and the ees have a great radar to alert them that something is going on. There are some pretty good threads on this forum about ways to handle lay-offs. Now that the possibility of more lay-offs is being discussed, you should get strategize with the other decision makers about the best way to handle this.

    If, in fact, others are being let go in your branch, there are several things you should consider trying to mitigate. You have the morale and human side of the process with respect to your staff; you may have security issues with respect to the various files in process or other sensitive data; you may have exposure to "losing" mortgage files in process to your competition if any of your producers and processors can take business with them. Brush up on your non-compete agreements, if any, and look to corporate for help with whatever parachutes they can offer to soften the landing.

    Good luck.
  • Being humiliated is generally not actionable. I wouldn't give it another thought as far as thinking you might be sued. If the company's basis for choosing her for layoff was sound, you can chill. She was caught off guard; you were caught off guard; you gave a response you might have given differently had you had a day to think about it. All that matters, as far as potential liability for the company, is that the Reduction In Force (RIF) was carefully analyzed and planned and implemented, not what snafus might have occured in the process. Stuff happens.
  • I agree. It's unfortunate that things got bolloxed up this way but I don't see any basis for action against the company. I would make a serious attempt to try to rehire her if circumstances permit, given your respect for her skills and value to the company. Good thing you're not in Alabama. Based on my experience, her next stop after leaving your office would have been a lawyer's office.
  • You made a mistake when you lied, but I don't think she has any basis for a suit, so long as the RIF was sound.
  • I agree with others, I don't think there's a chance for a lawsuit. Mistakes happen, they happen to all of us and I would be lying if I didn't tell you that early in my career, I made them as well. The important part right now is to learn the lesson - don't put yourself in a position where you have to lie about yourself, your position, your employees or your company. When confronted with another employee situation (where your hands are tied) come up with some pat phrases that will help you ease out of situation, until backup (corporate) arrives on the scene. Good luck!
  • Maybe it'll make you feel better to know it's happened to others also. I was coordinating a full day of back to back RIF notices and thought I was being so efficient in scheduling Facilities to deliver boxes to the person's cubicle while they were in their termination meeting with their manager. I gave facilities the schedule and prepared for a long hard day. I scheduled the first person first because it was a very sensitive person and I expected hysterics. So when the manager called her into his office, he couldn't find her, she had gone down to get coffee or something, so by the time she got back to her desk, the boxes had been delivered. She grabbed a box and walked down to her bosses office and asked, "Does this mean I'm being laid off?" She was joking, but of course the answer was yes. Needless to say, I stopped trying to be so efficient and if they have to wait a few minutes or go get their own boxes, too bad. We still had the hysterics and it certainly got a bad day off to a bad start, but I learned a good lesson and now sad to say, am an old pro at laying people off.
  • Yes, it does make me feel better. I usually work well under stress, but I absolutely flipped at that moment. It was the most unprofessional moment of my life. I'm going to try to hire her back as soon as I can, but what has compounded the problem is that a conversation that she had with my Branch Manager the next day when she realized she had left some items. My BM has a bad temper, and there is no doubt in my mind that he said something to further upset her, so she called employee relations and filed a complaint after speaking with him. It's just all a mess.
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