Not every employee is a great employee and not every hiring decision is a great one. That means that virtually every employer will face the necessary but often unpleasant and difficult task of terminating an employee for the good of the organization. However, it is important to approach the process of termination carefully. Failing to take the proper steps or performing a wrongful termination can create difficulties for the employer or provoke legal action that could damage the business.
What is a Wrongful Termination
A wrongful termination is simply when an employee has been illegally terminated according to company policy, public policy, or principles of law. An employee who believes he/she has been wrongfully terminated can file for unfair termination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a state or local anti-discrimination agency.
An employee can file for wrongful termination if they believe they have been fired for these reasons: sexual harassment and hostile work environment, discrimination for race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, and age, retaliation over workers’ compensation claims, violation of the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and wage and hour disputes. Wrongful termination claims can be filed for whistleblower retaliation including reporting organizational violations of environmental regulations, labor laws, and safety laws. A legal filing can take place in consideration of a violation of an employment agreement or company policy, including the violation of an oral or implied promise. A wrongful termination claim can be filed if the company creates an environment that influences the employee to quit or changes the terms of employment without proper notice including changing the location of work or changing the terms of compensation. A claim can also be filed if the employee is required to participate in illegal acts.
What Are Acceptable Reasons for Employee Termination
An employee can be terminated for these reasons: incompetence, poor quality of work, lack of productivity, insubordination, dishonesty, breaking of company rules, attendance and vacation problems, theft or criminal behavior including sharing or selling trade secrets, personal sexual harassment or other discriminatory behavior, and physical violence or threats against other employees. Other acceptable termination reasons include deliberately damaging company property, falsifying company records, drug or alcohol possession at work, and using company property for personal business.
The Right Way to Terminate an Employee
To make the termination process as effective as possible, avoid some of the difficulties, and avoid wrongful termination claims, use these tips:
- Have a well-defined company termination policy and communicate it clearly to all employees.
- Immediately upon identifying negative behaviors, begin to document them thoroughly.
- Create a timeframe for a potential termination that is consistent with company policy.
- Choose a proper time and place for the termination meeting and don’t rush into it. Stick to the facts. Don’t meet alone. Treat the individual with respect and dignity.
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