How to Avoid Lawsuits When Firing an Employee
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Am I At Risk of Being Sued for Firing an Employee?
Firing an employee can have a personal and emotional impact on an employee. In today's legal environment, a wrongful termination claim by a disgruntled former employee can end up costing your company significantly in legal costs. In order to avoid costly litigation, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your business is protected from fired employees.
Know the Law
The first step in preventing lawsuits from former employees is to know what the law is on employee termination. All company managers with the power to fire need to have at least a basic understanding of state and federal laws. This will allow them to spot and respond to potential risks. Some of these areas include:
- State and Federal Discrimination Laws
- Employment Contracts
- Family and Medical Leave Laws
Effective managers and human resource personnel know the importance of keeping a detailed paper trail on all employees. This is especially important when dealing with fired employees. In many cases, a manager's documentation on an employee may be the only real evidence that you can use at trial. Without documentation, wrongful termination trials become a he said she said war of words, leaving the jury to decide who is more credible.
Examples of things to document include:
- Written or verbal warnings given to employee
- Records of employee evaluations
- Number of times employee is absent or late without approval
- Steps taken to solve problems with employee.
Have Clear Termination Procedures in Place
One of the best ways to prevent claims of wrongful termination is to develop clear employee firing procedures and to follow them closely. Termination procedures should include:
- Standard documentation forms
- Planned agendas for termination meetings at which witnesses will be present
- Polices on when and how an employee can collect personal belongings
- Exit interviews with human resources personnel
- Plans on how to immediately limit fired employee's access to company property and files
- Procedure on how the employee will receive their final pay check
Do I Need a Lawyer When Terminating an Employee?
In order to avoid lawsuits and help protect your business, you should consult with an employment attorney to review your termination procedures. This can help you avoid costly litigation in the first place. If a former employee files a lawsuit against you for wrongful termination, you should contact an attorney immediately. Your attorney will be able to defend you at trial and ensure that your rights are protected.
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Last Modified: 01-09-2014 04:47 PM PST
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