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!

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.

Minnesota employees who make good-faith reports about safety concerns are protected from retaliation. Before you approve a termination recommendation, make sure the employee hasn’t recently complained about safety issues. If he has, verify that the discharge reasons are genuine. Otherwise, prepare for a retaliation lawsuit.

Q. We are in the process of reducing our staff and will need to lay off several employees. Are we required to provide severance pay to those selected for layoff? How about pay for accrued, unused vacation time?
Employees will be employees. You can only do so much to keep them from saying and doing boneheaded things. But once they do, must you respond to every single incident? Yes, you should, a court said this week. Otherwise, your actions could show your “indifference” to harassment claims.
Before you even consider firing (or refusing to hire) someone because they might jack up your health insurance costs, count your dollars, not your pennies. You may be staring down a lawsuit that could dwarf whatever premium costs you hoped to avoid.