Nowadays, firing an employee is much harder than it used to be. Employees are now more aware of all their rights and privileges and are more likely to get legal advice when they think that they have been inappropriately fired by their employer. Cases of wrongful termination in California and other other states are starting to increase, resulting in more and more workers suing their bosses.
As an employer, you would want to avoid this happening to you. Here are a number of tips to help you fire an employee without breaking the law.
Laying out the groundwork
Laying out the groundwork for termination of an employee must be done ahead of time. One of the main problems of dismissing employees is that people don’t usually prepare for it. As an employer, you must learn to work with the employee and help them succeed so that termination only becomes the last resort. Some employers have the tendency to tolerate an employee’s bad behavior and simply fire them when they are full of it, which is wrong.
Dismissing an employee must never come out as a surprise. The employer must also work with the employee by informing them about their performance. This will make them aware that they are not meeting the company’s expectations and that they must improve in order to keep their job.
The following records must always be present so that you can provide the necessary evidence for firing an employee:
- Employment application
- Employee handbook of rules and accepted behavior
- Company policies and employment agreements
- Job descriptions
- Records of employee performance
- Records of disciplinary action and counseling
- Written documentation of investigations and other records related to an employee’s termination
These records will be legally useful in case an employee decides to sue your company. The documents must be accurate and clearly written.
Firing at Will
In most states, workers that are employed with no employment contract are considered to be employed ‘at-will.’ This means that a company has the right to terminate employees any time, with or without any reason. Employees also have the right to leave the company whenever they like.
Firing at will has now become more limited over the years. Several exceptions are now being recognized in order to protect unreasonable cases of employee termination at will. Exceptions include:
- Discrimination – terminating an employee simply because of their race, age, sex, nationality, religion, or any other reason that does not affect job performance is illegal.
- Public policy – terminating a worker for reasons that violate public policy is illegal. For example, you cannot fire an employee for calling out your company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste. You also cannot fire an employee asking for worker’s compensation after being injured for their work.
Firing an employee can be necessary in certain instances, but it can be illegal when done the wrong way. To avoid facing legal charges related to discrimination, wrongful discharge, defamation, retaliation, and other employee-related cases, be sure to know how to handle firing an employee. Take the necessary preparations and keep record of any important documents in case you face an employment suit.