Would you consider this firing to be fair?


At a factory, it is stated that all employees are expected to manufacture a minimum of 100 widgets per week. The guidelines also state that “ideal” productivity is 125 widgets per week.

Amanda manufactures 125 widgets a week while all of her other colleagues on the assembly manufacture 150 widgets a week. Within a few months, Amanda’s supervisor informs her that she is in danger of being fired if she continues to lag behind her coworkers in this regard.

The legality of this is not an issue - this is an at-will employment state and the employer can fire for whatever reason or no reason. But would you consider this a ***fair ***firing, if it were to happen?

‘Fair’ in what sense? She doesn’t produce as much as the other workers, if she gets paid the same as the others is that fair? She will feel it’s unfair to be fired since she met the stated expectations for her performance, is that the standard? The business may need the maximum productivity from every worker to survive, maybe they’re considering raising the expectations of all of the workers. Fairness is often in the eye of the beholder.

Need more info. What is the reason she unable or unwilling to meet the numbers that every other employee is able to meet?

She’s meeting the ideal. Now, if the factory wanted to offer incentives for those who produced more than 125 that may encourage Amanda to produce more.

It appears the ideal is no longer ideal, and they factory needs to set new standards. But either way it’s perfectly fair. She’s been informed, and she has a chance to modify/improve her performance. Conditions change, what was once acceptable is now sub-par.

Just because the co-workers are producing more doesn’t mean the guidelines have changed. Now, if the new standard becomes 150 and the co-workers ramp it up to 175 and Amanda can only produce 150, should she still be fired?

Certainly management should find out why Amanda is producing less than her co-workers, but if she’s been told to produce 125 and that’s what she’s doing, she shouldn’t be fired just because her co-workers are producing more.

Her supervisor told her to produce as many as her coworkers or be fired. If she doesn’t then she gets fired. Seems fair to me.

Generally, no. Condition of employment states the minimum number is 100. She exceeds that. Quota is 125. She meets that.

Having met both minimums and quota, she should be secure in her employment, albeit not as likely as others to recieve raises and promotions. Now, if there’s a financial need for personnel cutbacks, then yes, I could see her fairly targeted as the first to be laid off.

Right - I am asking what every beholder’s eye sees.

Absolutely not. She was told to produce at least 100, and 125 would be ideal. She’s an ideal employee. Companies which fire ideal employees tend not to be awesome.

If the company were to move the goalposts and let her know that, then the situation (and the hypothetical) changes, but as is, this is not fair.

It’s not ‘fair’ if they haven’t updated their guidelines/workers handbook to reset expectations. Obviously, if everyone is making more than both the original minimum and the desired mean that says something about an update in productivity without an update to the handbook. Before speaking to her, a good and ‘fair’ manager would have first had a team meeting to discuss the change to standards, and maybe have a private conversation with the worker who is lagging behind to find out why that’s happening. Then reset the minimum and expected idea mean, with perhaps incentives to replace the new levels (say, set the minimum at 150 with the desired mean at 175 or whatever makes sense).

Of course, ‘fair’ doesn’t really mean anything in an at-will employment situation, since they don’t have to explain any of this, and even warning the worker that she is at risk is more than they HAVE to do, but it would also be a hit to team moral to do something like this, unless there were other factors. JMHO of course.

She’d see it as unfair, the company won’t, the other workers could go either way. I see the general unfairness of life in that scenario.

“Fair” in the sense that she is meeting the terms of her employment.

Most generally accepted management theory that I’ve come across tends to take the view that you should provide your employees with clear goals, objectives and performance criteria. If the goal is to produce an ideal 125 widgets per person, 100 minimum, that that is the criteria. If the expectation is that each year, workers who exceed 125 widgets get a bonus, the top 80% keep their job and the bottom 20% get fired, then that should be stated as well.
The notion that you can “beat” your workers into grinding out more widgets is a bit of a fallacy. Is 150 widgets sustainable long term? What is the defect rate vs 125 widgets? Are there other considerations? Like is there a need for these widgets further down the supply chain or do they just get dumped in a warehouse where they actually increase holding costs to store? Do the workers get so stressed out that any benefits are cancelled out by costs associated with turnover? Can their supplier’s keep up with widget parts, or does the widget plant have to sit idle waiting?

How are these guidelines expressed? what does it say about an employee who falls below the 100 widget quota? is there a procedure in this guideline as to how the worker knows if she is meeting her stated goals?
Contrary to public opinion, an “at will” contract does not mean a worker can be fired at any time for any reason. Quite often there are implied contracts to deal with, and depending on how they exist, production goals can be considered an implied contract.


The terms of employment could change. She was told of the upcoming change, if she couldn’t meet the new goal would it be unfair to fire her? There’s a lot more information needed to determine if increasing the acceptable rate was a good management decision or not.

The company, through her supervisor, DID let her know. She was told she was in danger of being fired, not that she WAS fired.

But if the guidelines have not been updated, it’s not fair. She’s producing what is ideal. If ideal has changed, that needs to be communicated.

It has. According to her supervisor, the new ideal is producing the same amount as her coworkers.

I can’t tell from the OP if that has been communicated to all the staff. If the minimum is 100 with ideal being 125, and Amanda has to get to more than ideal, matching her co-workers’ 150, doesn’t that change what the minimum is?

Let me ask you this…her co-workers, who think Amanda is just grand (she brings homemade cupcakes every Friday) decide to slack off to producing 125 widgets so she doesn’t look bad. Is Amanda no longer in danger of firing or is the entire production staff going to get canned?

I agree with this. She’s meeting her posted quota. If they fire her, I think she would have grounds for a suit. My $0.02 worth.