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I fired someone for poor performance several months ago, and they haven't signed their severance paperwork yet so I am actively worried about litigation. I saw last weekend that they just joined my church, which is currently meeting over Zoom. It is a very small group (< 50 families). We just joined a few months ago, so we're still in the process of building social bonds.

I have been sued by former employees before and it is not fun. I want to run and hide, to avoid any situation that might provoke that response, but that would affect my family and our social life.

Should I just try to ignore them? Should I pull back from any smaller group activities where I might run into them? Should I leave the group entirely?

Would be happy to hear about any experiences or tactics for dealing with this successfully.

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    "I have been sued by former employees before and it is not fun" Why did they sue you? Is this new former employee a similar case? – sf02 Jan 4 at 16:55
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    Even in America I don't think its common to have been sued by former employees. I feel like there may be parts of this situation we aren't getting the details on and as such its difficult to really make a suggestion with the workplace in mind. – Lio Elbammalf Jan 5 at 10:31
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I saw last weekend that they just joined my church, which is currently meeting over Zoom. It is a very small group (< 50 families). We just joined a few months ago, so we're still in the process of building social bonds.

This sounds rather interesting. So you join the church and after firing the person, he joined this church of yours? That sounds like a very odd coincidence and it is certainly something to keep an eye on. If he is somehow joining more of your activities, then I would flag it as something you might need to address but at this point, depending on the town size and where this guy lives in relation to the church, I would just write it off as an odd occurrence.

I have been sued by former employees before and it is not fun.

Did any of them win their case? If so, perhaps you should be applying lessons of those events to this one. Did you have clear reasons to fire this employee?

I'm not sure where you live but I'm assuming the USA. If so, nearly every state is at-will employment. That means you can fire them for any reason, for anything. Usually the law is strongly on the side of the business unless they find out you violated federal/state laws concerning employees. That or your employees are contractors and are bounded by the contract but even then most contracts are in favor of the employer than the employees. So if they are winning these cases, which would be very hard to do in USA, then I would look deeper into what you're doing with your business and how you handle employees.

Should I just try to ignore them? Should I pull back from any smaller group activities where I might run into them? Should I leave the group entirely?

I would just continue on as if nothing is going on. It's a simple employment termination and hopefully he find another job. My advice is to just greet him/her and simply carry on without any mention of the termination.

However, if he/she becomes hostile or starts to spread rumor, then I would go the route of either leaving or filing a police report on the matter stating that he joined the church shortly after you firing him and has been harassing you.

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  • Thanks for all the answers. The other answers are good too, but I found this the most helpful! – Sarkom Jan 5 at 22:53
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Should I just try to ignore them? Should I pull back from any smaller group activities where I might run into them? Should I leave the group entirely?

Why do you feel the need to do that? Did you do something wrong? If you did something wrong, you may want to consult a lawyer for advice.

Otherwise, my advice is "act normal". Act like they quit of their own free will. Being weird around your former employee will backfire.

In your church nobody even knows they were fired by you. So if you act weird, you will be perceived as the problem. Assuming your former employee will not sue you, you are making this hard on both of you. Assuming your former employee will sue you, the last thing you want is to act as if you are guilty of something or have something to hide.

Act normal. Make sure that if something goes wrong, it was them who started it.

On a personal note: I have never been fired, but I've been laid off and I have been subject to lying bosses that I would rather quit the job then continue working for them. Sometimes, people just want to put it behind them. I would not mind to be on some limited activity with any of those bosses. Let the past be the past. I got a new job and a better boss now. No need to be petty about the past. Don't make it weird, act normal.

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  • Are they in the same area to try and get to same church as you? if not, fishy, i would talk to pastor – Strader Jan 4 at 20:13
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If you did nothing legally (or ethically) wrong in firing them, you should not be worried. If they have no grounds to sue you, then even if they try they won't win. Just pretend nothing happened, don't raise the issue, and treat this person as if they were any other acquaintance you have a history with.

If you did something legally (or ethically) wrong in firing them, you should be worried and you deserve it. Don't fire people "for poor performance" without grounds, because this is what you get. If this is the case, I have no sympathy for you and refuse to give helpful advice and I hope you get what you deserve (I have a history where this has happened to me and I hope anyone who does this gets what they deserve, as someone who's been on the receiving end).

If you feel like this person is stalking you by joining this church group, you may want to discuss the issue with your pastor and/or seek legal counsel.

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  • "If they have no grounds to sue you, then even if they try they won't win". Sure, but even a straightforward case will cost you several thousand in legal fees to defend it. – Kaz Jan 4 at 16:38
  • And several thousand in legal fees for the other person to try to prosecute. People are fired all the time, and there's a reason not every single person who is fired ever sues their former employer "just because" or "stick it to the man". If there are no grounds, there's no point in worrying about it because it will almost certainly not happen. – Ertai87 Jan 4 at 16:40
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    Unless they feel aggrieved at how they were fired. Or you piss them off (the thrust of this question). Or they try their luck hoping for a nuisance settlement. – Kaz Jan 4 at 16:43
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    Paying several thousand dollars to prosecute a case because you "feel aggrieved" is not a particularly sane use of a few thousand dollars. Can it happen? Sure. Is it likely and therefore worth worrying about? Not unless this person is insanely rich and can afford to piss away a few thousand dollars on what basically amounts to being an internet troll IRL. – Ertai87 Jan 4 at 16:46

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