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Firing

There’s danger in every aspect of firing, from WARN Act layoffs and exit interviews to constructive discharge and more.

Learn how to fire an employee and sidestep wrongful termination lawsuits, with battle-tested firing procedures, and employment termination letters. At last, you can fire at will!

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If there’s no use-it-or-lose-it policy in place, employees can easily stockpile weeks of vacation or personal leave. Should they become ill, they may try to use that time as a substitute for FMLA leave. If an employee asks you to approve an especially long vacation, and you suspect the underlying reason may be a covered condition under the FMLA, beware automatically rejecting the request.

Employers get lots of leeway when it comes to terminating employees. For example, courts generally uphold firing someone for breaking a rule as long as the employer reasonably believed the employee broke the rule—even if it turns out he did not. But when it looks as if the employer tried to trick the employee into breaking a rule, judges won’t look the other way.

According to the EEOC, leave may be a reasonable accommodation. If you fire disabled employees without at least considering time off as an accommodation, you might be sued.

Employees who take FMLA leave to deal with their own serious health condition are entitled to reinstatement to their jobs or substantially identical ones when they return. But what if the employee isn’t ready to come back after 12 weeks? In that case, employers don’t have to reinstate the employee—at least not under the FMLA.

Q. I have an employee who is a volunteer firefighter. Although I believe that volunteering is important, his absences to respond to emergencies have disrupted workplace productivity. Can I replace him on this basis?

Employers have a tough call to make if an employee lands a short jail sentence. Discharging the worker may be the best option. But leniency may be more appropriate in other situations. If you can explain why you treated convicted employees differently, you should be legally OK.

Here’s something to remember when you’re worried about firing someone because you might get sued: Judges don’t want to run HR departments. As long as HR acts honestly and believes the employee should be fired because she broke a company rule, chances are a lawsuit won’t ­succeed.

Are you hearing that a supervisor is making less than flattering statements about a disabled employee or disabled individuals in general? Then it’s time to call in the supervisor and explain to her it has to stop. That’s especially true if the super­visor happens to have a disabled ­employee under her direction and recommends that the employee should be terminated.

Courts are suspicious when em­ployees who have recently returned from FMLA leave are suddenly fired. Yet, chances are you will at some point have to terminate an employee following FMLA leave. Just make sure you can explain why, backed up by solid and contemporaneous documentation.
Employees who have been fired generally qualify for unemployment benefits unless they were terminated for misconduct. But “misconduct” is broadly defined. It can even include rude or snippy behavior that shows an employee doesn’t really care.
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