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 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.

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.

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.

Employee theft is a big problem, and it’s natural for employers that catch workers stealing to terminate them. But some of those thieves may still file for unemployment. Challenge such applications on the basis that the firing offense was punishable as a crime. There’s no need for an actual conviction.

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.

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.

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?
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?
Q. A group of our employees recently voted to strike. To ensure that our operations aren’t disrupted, we would like to hire replacement workers. When the strike ends, will we be required to reinstate the strikers?
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