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!

Until now, it wasn’t clear whether employers could ask employees returning from military service to waive their re-employment rights under USERRA. Now a ruling from the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has offered guidance for employers that want to provide severance payments in lieu of re-employment.

Andrew Kurtz, part of a crew of guys who dress as hearty snacks and race around the Pittsburgh Pirates' stadium at every home game, was canned after criticizing team executives on Facebook. There's a lesson in here somewhere—perhaps on social media, perhaps on the tricky decision about who to fire when things aren't going well.

Has an employee complained about a supervisor’s alleged discrimination? If so, carefully review any important employment decisions the supervisor subsequently makes. Be alert for potential retaliation.
Q. A replacement line supervisor directed an employee in our plant to use a machine he wasn’t trained to operate. The employee was injured when he stuck his hand into the machine to clear a jam. While the employee was recuperating in the hospital, the plant supervisor fired him for operating machinery he hadn’t been trained on. Does the employee have a right to sue us if the line supervisor ordered him to do this job?
Don’t jump the gun when it comes to firing an employee for breaking a rule. For example, if you have an attendance policy that requires termination after a certain number of absences, be sure the employee actually missed all those days.
Q. A recently terminated employee retained an attorney, who then engaged in pre-suit negotiations with our HR vice president. During those negotiations, our VP disclosed, in writing, some confidential information about the internal investigation that led to this employee’s termination. Negotiations have since broken down and the employee filed suit. Should I be concerned about these pre-suit disclosures coming back to haunt us in the litigation?

Some employees have heard through the legal grapevine that if the going gets tough at work, they can just get going. They believe they can up and quit—and then turn around and sue, claiming that they had no choice but to leave because they were suffering retaliation for taking some protected action. This is an example of “constructive discharge.” But conditions have to be pretty onerous before the tactic works.

If you carefully document wrongdoing, you have very little to fear from a lawsuit—even if you’re wrong. That’s because courts don’t demand perfection from employers—just that they act in good faith.

Presumably, when you terminate an employee, you have good reasons for doing so. If you pile on more reasons later, it may look as if you are trying to cover up a discriminatory decision with a host of excuses for why you fired the employee.

Employers that keep careful track of which employees are disciplined—and for what reasons—have a leg up if they’re ever sued for discrimination. Before you terminate any employee, take the time to pull up all similar past disciplinary files. If those records show you fired other employees for identical or less-serious offenses, chances are no court will second-guess your decision in the latest case.