Bad Timing for a Firing

by | Oct 1, 2010

The Star reported last week that two women were fired by Greenhawk Harness & Equestrian Supplies because they called the police after finding a bloodstained vehicle in the company parking lot.
On August 30th, murder victim Sonia Varaschin was reported missing.  Valerie Whiteside and Kim Tait arrived at work that morning, and were the shocked to find her bloodstained car in the parking lot.  They immediately called police, and cooperated with investigators throughout the day.
Over the next three days, neither of the women was asked if they required counselling.  Their stress was added to by the fact that the killer was still on the loose.  At the end of the week, they were shocked again when they arrived at work to find their regional manager waiting with their termination papers and severance.
Each of them is suing Greenhawk for $25,000 for wrongful dismissal.  Whiteside said that she found it very telling that of the seven employees, the ones that were downsized happened to be the two that called the police.  She believes that she was dismissed in order to avoid negative publicity.  Company CEO Ian Russell claims it was purely coincidental, but would not comment on any specifics due to privacy concerns.
Putting aside the substance of this wrongful dismissal claim, one question resounds…Why was Greenhawk so eager to pull the trigger during such a delicate time? Surely, given the circumstances, they could have delayed restructuring and inquired about whether or not the women were psychologically  traumatized by the incident.  Their failure to make this evaluation is indicative of two things: either their plan for dismissal was unwavering or they simply failed to provide any concern for the well-being of their staff.  Regardless of which of the two it was, employers should not be so reluctant to revaluate decisions in light of unexpected events.
Even if Whiteside and Tait lose the lawsuit, they will have given Greenhawk exactly what they thought they were fired for – a lot of negative publicity.

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