These termination justifications could spare you from a lawsuit

These termination justifications could spare you from a lawsuit

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Employment Law - Employer

Terminating the employment of certain workers is part of running a business. Although it’s rarely a comfortable process, it’s necessary to protect your business interests and even other workers from inappropriate behavior. But when you let a worker go, there’s also some risk that you’ll be accused of some sort of wrongdoing, which may include allegations of retaliation for reporting harassment or discrimination.

So, as you start thinking about the best way to terminate employees who aren’t benefitting your company, you’ll want to make sure you’re considering how to protect yourself from a legal perspective. Let’s take a closer look at how you can do that.

Warranted justifications for terminating an employee

When you fire someone, you should be able to justify your action. When you can’t justify it is when you run into trouble if allegations of wrongdoing are levied against you. So, if you’re about to terminate a particularly problematic employee who you expect to make waves, then you might want to see if you can characterize your action as any of the following:

  • Responding to sexual harassment, discrimination, or bullying: If the employee in question is engaging in this type of behavior, then terminating their employment may be necessary to protect other workers and shield yourself from liability. Just be sure to articulate the problematic behavior in case they question the legitimacy of your actions.
  • Stopping unethical behavior: You need your workforce to exhibit ethical behavior. If they don’t, they might leave you vicariously liable for their actions. So, if your employee has falsified records, mishandled company finances, or engaged in inappropriate relationships with clients or co-workers, then you may need to consider terminating their employment to protect your company.
  • Reacting to poor job performance: Bad job performance is a common cause for termination. However, you’ll want a strong track record of their poor performance, which is why it’s so important to be open and honest when you write mid-year and year-end performance appraisals. If you claim that termination is based on poor performance but it isn’t documented somewhere, then you might be accused of using this justification as a ploy to coverup retaliation of some sort.
  • Protecting the company’s culture and workplace dynamics: Although this can be trickier to navigate, you might be able to justify a termination by claiming that it’s intended to remove someone who doesn’t fit in with the business’s culture and dynamics. Again, you’ll want to be articulate here so that if you wind up in court your justification is well-founded. Document as much as you can to support your action here.

Documentation is key to protecting you from a legal perspective. If employees are failing to adhere to company policies, then engage in a system of progressive discipline that’s reduced to writing. If excessive absenteeism is an issue, make a running list of when the employee is late or inexcusably absent from work. The more thorough and detailed you can be, the more protection you give yourself.

Be forward-looking to protect yourself from an employment-based lawsuit

To avoid allegations of legal wrongdoing, you need to have a lot of foresight and be proactive in protecting yourself from liability. That might be hard to do if you’re not used to dealing with employment legal issues, but reading this blog post is a strong first step.

If you want to know more about what you can do to protect yourself and your business from legal liability, then we encourage you to continue to research strategies that you can implement and how you can respond to common employment-based problems faced in the workplace.