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3 lawful reasons to fire an employee

Sep 12, 2022 | Employment litigation

California is an at-will employment state. This means that either party can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for whatever reason – so long as that reason is legal. If you unlawfully dismiss an employee from their role, they might file a wrongful termination suit against your organization. 

Before dismissing an employee, it is important to prove that your decision was informed by their behavior or actions rather than your antipathy towards them. This is legally known as “firing for a cause.” 

Here are three acceptable reasons for dismissing an employee:

1. Gross misconduct

Most employee contracts as well as the organization handbooks explain what is expected of each employee. 

For instance, if an employee exhibits violent behavior towards their colleague or superior, then you may dismiss them on gross misconduct grounds. Likewise, you can lawfully fire an employee who is consistently intimidating their teammates or disregarding laid-out workplace safety measures. 

2. Alcohol and substance abuse at work

Every employee must be in sound mind to perform their duties safely and optimally. As such, reporting to work drunk is not acceptable under any circumstance. Alcohol and drug use at work can lead to serious accidents that can put your organization in a position of liability. 

3. Poor work performance

Every job comes with certain targets that the employee must meet. If an employee fails to perform or show progress despite efforts from you to improve their output, then you may have no choice but release them from employment.

The law protects both employers and employees in an employment relationship. Find out how you can safeguard your rights and interests while dismissing an employee from your organization.