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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Employers have the right to expect em­­ployees to listen to reasonable directions, accept criticism and otherwise behave in a civilized way. When an employee becomes insubordinate, the employer has the right to discipline her, including firing if necessary.

Government employees have some rights that private-sector employees don’t have, including so-called liberty and property interests in their jobs. That can include the right to a hearing and an opportunity to present their side of the story before being discharged. It also includes the right to preserve their reputations.

When firing an employee, always note exactly when you decided to terminate her. You will no doubt know before the employee does. Your good record-keeping can shoot down an employee’s attempt to blame the firing on something illegal—like disability discrimination or an attempt to interfere with the employee’s FMLA rights.

When companies draft their employee handbooks, they often strive for certainty. Employees want to know what the rules are and employers often oblige with draconian, zero-tolerance rules. No wonder managers often try to apply all the rules equally in all situations. But the smart money is on flexibility.

Employees who sue but can’t show they suffered any monetary damages sometimes claim mental distress instead. Fortunately, courts don’t just take their word it, especially if the employee claims she had to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Q. We recently fired an employee because of insubordination and anger-management issues. The termination meeting, not surprisingly, didn’t go well and the employee became very agitated. He made some statements that could be interpreted as vague threats against his supervisor and our company. Is there anything we can or should do to protect ourselves from this former employee?
It’s been an open question whether Cali­for­nia’s Fair Employment and Hous­ing Act allows employers to punish a mentally ill employee whose disease makes her act out. Now the answer is clear: You can punish mentally disabled employees for threats or violence against co-workers.
Employees sometimes think that employers have to accommodate all their schedule requests. Not usually. Often, employees fired for refusing to work their scheduled hours expect to receive unemployment benefits.

You can’t retaliate against employees who complain about alleged discrimination in the workplace. But what’s retaliation? Tense working conditions don’t always fit that bill. There can be many explanations for rising tensions that have nothing to do with a discrimination complaint.

It happens—employers make mistakes. Under most circumstances, however, those mistakes won’t turn into successful employee discrimination lawsuits. That’s because employees have to prove that both the decision and the underlying facts were wrong and were used as an excuse to discriminate.

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