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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A Texas appellate court has upheld the discharge of a teacher for financial reasons. The case shows school districts have great discretion to determine which employees to cut and don’t have to be bogged down in a detailed examination.

Discharged employees often sue, counting on their protected status—based on race, sex, national origin and so on—to create the impression that they were fired for discriminatory reasons. That’s why it’s important to use a progressive discipline system. It lets you counter discrimination allegations with solid, documented performance or behavior problems that warranted discharge.

It happens regularly: An employee is facing escalating discipline and fears for her job—so she files a surprise sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit, hoping to stop her firing. But you can fire her—if you can provide complete disciplinary records to justify that the decision had nothing to do with her complaint.

There are times that an employee can get away with behavior that you otherwise wouldn’t tolerate. During a busy period, for example, you might be more forgiving of tardiness than when things are slower. After all, when things are busy, a late employee may be better than no employee. But if you ignore tardiness, are you forever condemned to tolerate it? Of course not, as a recent case makes clear. Still, consistency is always the best practice.

Employees who don’t call off work as company rules require may be guilty of misconduct. That means they lose the right to unemployment compensation if they are fired.
If you rely on a boss to make a firing recommendation and don’t independently investigate, you risk terminating someone because of the supervisor’s hidden bias. That can mean a large jury award. At least give the employee a chance to tell his side of the story.
Employers sometimes worry about terminating an employee who hasn’t showed up for work when her approved leave expires. That shouldn’t be a problem if you previously made it clear that it’s the employee’s responsibility to keep you updated with their status and to ask for an extension if necessary.

Could you explain to a court exactly when you decided to fire an employee? If not, you need a system for tracking your decision-making process. That can be invaluable, as this case shows.

In a case with important implications for employers in states where medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that an employee who was fired after testing positive for cannabis does not have to be rehired.

You probably have specific rules that spell out discipline for common violations. That doesn’t mean you can’t tailor the punishment to each individual situation. The key is to document the details that justify why one employee who broke a rule was punished more harshly than someone else who broke the same rule.

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