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Tips for avoiding wrongful termination accusations

Jun 14, 2021 | Employment litigation

Employers can face legal action if they violate the rights of their employees. However, all cases have at least two sides to a story.

For example, imagine an employer recently fired or penalized an employee for reasons they believed were legitimate. However, the employee could see things differently and may claim an employer wrongfully terminated them. To avoid these allegations, employers can take a few crucial steps.

Know what makes a termination wrongful

Employers can fire an employee for any or no reason at all. The one exception is that it cannot be for an unlawful reason.

More specifically, a firing cannot be retaliatory or discriminatory, per California laws. For instance, if you fire an employee for reporting unsafe work conditions or because of their race, the employee could have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Document everything

People’s memories and impressions can be unreliable; records and correspondence can provide a more accurate representation of an employment situation. Thus, employers would be wise to retain as much information relevant to a firing as possible.

Some examples of what you should hold on to include:

  • Negative performance reviews
  • Emails, voicemails or other correspondence that capture disputes, conflicts or other clashes with the employee
  • Complaints against the employee
  • Hiring schedules (to show who were the last people hired)
  • Details of any misconduct by the employee

This information can support the lawful, legitimate reason why you are letting an employee go.

Consult professionals

If you are concerned about the optics of a termination, getting a second opinion before informing the employee can be wise. You might talk to someone in your Human Resources department or an attorney who can help you see if a firing is potentially unlawful.

These parties can help you see any blind spots in your decision-making process and prevent you from making a costly mistake.

Managing your workforce can be stressful, and employers may have to make unpopular or unfortunate decisions. Minimizing the legal fallout of these unavoidable situations by ensuring the determinations are legally sound can make it a little easier for decision-makers.