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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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The decision to fire an employee doesn’t usually happen overnight. It’s typically a gradual process. Be sure you can show exactly when and how you made the termination decision.
If you are engaged in a reduction in force and rewrite a job description so an older employee is eliminated because she lacks a requirement in the new description, she could sue you and easily win in court.
Q. We fired a worker for poor performance, but we didn’t tell him exactly why. Now he is demanding the discharge reason in writing. What do we do?
Sometimes it’s obvious that you are going to have to fire an employee. First, however, you must follow your usual employment and HR procedures. Don’t just go through the motions, and don’t get sloppy!
Sometimes, it makes sense to use a last-chance agreement in which an employee agrees that one more violation of a company rule will mean immediate termination.
If the manager has moved on, all is not lost. You can still argue that the worker was hired knowing his status and that it makes no sense to then have fired him for that characteristic.
Sometimes, it becomes clear that safety concerns require an employer to move a worker and even terminate him if it isn’t possible to offer a different, safer position.
Q. Our company policy is not to pay an employee for unused vacation time if the employee resigns without giving the required two weeks’ notice. A former employee has challenged this policy and is threatening to take the company to court. Is this policy lawful?
Q. We are a small business and cannot afford to have employees out for extended leaves. One of our employees will be on jury duty for a trial that we’re told could continue for at least a month. Do we have to keep her job open to her when the trial is over?
Sometimes, if you want to help a terminated employee move on to better opportunities, it may also make sense to not offer a reason for the discharge, especially if stating the reason could interfere with his or her job hunt.
A zero-tolerance policy regarding violence is usually fine. However, you must be prepared for a lawsuit if one of the people disciplined has previously complained about some form of discrimination.
Under the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act, employees who are actively involved in termination decisions may be deemed personally liable for aiding and abetting violations of the law.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to notify employees 60 days before closing down or conducting a mass layoff of 50 or more workers. However, there are exceptions.
Just letting an employee sign a resignation letter instead of being terminated won’t always prevent her from suing you.
The more centralized the management and direction and the more equipment and staff are shared between locations, the more likely a court will consider the separate locations to be part of the same operation.
A last chance agreement can help solidify a termination because it puts the employee subject to the agreement on different footing than other employees.
Whenever you fire someone, consider that he or she might sue you. Be prepared to show that the employee’s punishment was comparable to that of other employees who broke the same rule.
An important reminder: Willful misconduct can bar a former employee from receiving unemployment benefits.
Employees caught lying on their employment applications about their educational level may not be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has approved sub-dividing groups of older workers so some may bring age discrimination claims even if the layoffs overall did not generally discriminate against older workers.
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