Under employment-at-will laws that are in effect in all states except Montana, you have the "right" to discharge an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. At least, that's the theory. In reality, your right to fire is becoming more and more restricted because of the tremendous growth in federal and state laws that favor employees. What's more, these days workers who feel they have been unjustly discharged or forced to quit seem to be filing employment-related suits at the drop of a hat, and courts are increasingly taking the employee's side.
Avoiding a lawsuit by using proper termination procedures. The best way to "win" a lawsuit is to avoid it in the first place. By keeping in mind some basic management and interpersonal rules, you can go a long way toward diffusing the anger of a discharged employee an employee who might otherwise vent his or her wrath in a courtroom. Many of these same rules are also useful in establishing your defense that you had a good reason to fire your employee if it turns out that the worker does sue you, after all.
The following section will outline:
- what to do before firing a worker for misconduct or poor work performance
- what to do before laying off workers for economic reasons
- what to do if you fire someone on the spot
- how to use severance agreements and releases
- how to handle voluntary resignations