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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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Here’s an important reminder that it takes just one Nean­der­thal boss to launch a lawsuit: Treat­­ing working mothers differently than working fathers is sex discrimination. Never turn a blind eye if you hear a super­visor is doing just that.
Here’s an important factor when considering discharge: Dis­­crimi­­nation complaints made years ago can form the basis for a lawsuit if the underlying events show a pattern of discrimination.
If someone was terminated for breaking workplace rules, he may claim you treated others outside his protected classification more favorably. The best way to counter such charges is with very specific records showing why you believe each punishment fit the rule violation.

For an employee to win a dis­crimination lawsuit, he has to show that he was qualified for the job he held. Some employers assume that if they disciplined the employee for poor performance, that proves he wasn’t qualified. But a court might not see it that way if you trained and tested him before putting him to work.

If you want to offer a severance package to an em­­ployee in exchange for giving up the right to contest a discharge, give him plenty of time to consider the offer. If you don’t, the signed deal may not be final.
Here’s some good news for those handling discipline and wondering whether your decision will stand up in court: You don’t always have to be exactly right, just fair and honest.
Recently, a Texas appeals court was asked to determine whether firing an employee because of a Face­­book post violated that employee’s state law privacy rights. The court held that it did not.

Q. What factors do the courts use to determine if termination is an appropriate penalty?

Most of the time, an employer needs only to honestly believe the reason given for a termination. However, that’s not true in cases involving the FMLA or California family leave.
A federal court in North Carolina has refused to add another legal avenue disgruntled employees can use to sue. The court said even after recent amendments that expanded the scope of the law, the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act doesn’t protect whistle-blowers who report what they believe are serious safety violations at work.
The next time you discipline an em­­ployee, consider how his conduct compares to others who broke a similar rule. Then detail the differences if the punishment varies. That way, you can later explain why two employees violating a similar rule deserved different punishments.

Q. It has come to my attention that one of our managers has posted his résumé on an online job board. Is it legal to ask him if he is actively looking for another job? If he is, do we have grounds to terminate him?

Clothing retailer Wet Seal appears headed for a settlement after the EEOC ruled against it in a race discrimination complaint that alleged a high-level effort to trim the number of black employees working at the teen fashion retailers’ stores.
Q. We have learned that one of our employees has been subjected to domestic violence and has a restraining order against her boyfriend. We are concerned that the man might become violent in our workplace. We are considering terminating the employee to make sure that our other employees are safe. Does such a termination raise any legal issues?
Q. Our company provides services to nursing homes. One of our therapists recently went out on wor­k­­ers’ compensation leave. The facility where she worked has since asked us not to reassign the employee back to its facility. However, we don’t have other placement options for this worker. Do we have any options?
Sometimes, internal investigations pull back the curtain on performance problems that have nothing to do with the original inquiry. Even if it turns out that the initial reason for the investigation was unfounded, you don’t have to ignore other issues you may uncover.
Surreptitiously gathering evidence in violation of your rules isn’t protected activity and can’t be the basis for an employee's subsequent retaliation lawsuit.

Employers don’t want distracted em­ployees, especially when their jobs require their undivided attention. That’s reason enough to tell workers to shut off their cellphones and other electronic devices. Ignoring such orders and engaging in distractions like reading text messages is misconduct.

Not every terminated employee sues, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. If you fire someone for breaking a rule, note which one.
A refusal to grant time off as an accommodation for the disability of an employee’s family member will only pass muster for employers too small to be covered by the FMLA or employees who did not work long enough to be eligible for FMLA leave.
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