Terminating an employee is typically one of the more difficult parts of owning or managing a business. Nevertheless, many believe they had valid reasons and went about it the right way once they decided. So, they are often surprised when a former employee files a wrongful termination claim.
Defining wrongful termination
There are exceptions, perhaps protections outlined in an employment contract. Still, employers typically can dismiss an employee for just about any reason as long as it is not a violation of their civil rights. For example, the employer cannot dismiss a worker because of their gender, skin color, age, or religious beliefs. Employers also cannot fire someone in retaliation for reporting them for unsafe working conditions or other regulatory violations.
Protecting the business
The best way to protect a business is to document an employees’ time with the company. This often includes:
- Bad performance reviews
- A record of warnings issued before dismissal
- Documentation (eyewitness, email, voicemail, etc.) of disputes with management, fellow employees, or customers
- Documentation of other misconduct at work
- Similar practices for all employees and not just the claimant
Some who like to think of their company as a family may feel uncomfortable taking such a business-like approach, but ideally, it will not be necessary to share this information. And when it is, the employer will be happy they had these practices in place to document their reasons for the dismissal.
It pays to plan ahead
General practices go a long way toward protecting an employer. However, it may also be necessary for the owner or manager to consult with an attorney before announcing the termination. The outside perspective with a solid legal background can provide recommendations if the employer thinks that the employee will file a wrongful termination claim.