Employers should always err on the side of caution when dealing with employee terminations. The last thing they need is to have to defend a lawsuit. Reading company policies and consulting an employment attorney is essential before making any hasty decisions.
1. Question: Can an employee be fired for any reason?
No. However, while the law affords employers a lot of leeway in choosing whether to fire an employee, there are limits. Federal and state regulations prohibit employers from firing workers for particular reasons, such as the following:
- Family leave
- Illegal company activity
- National origin
2. Question: What are the practical items an employer needs to take care of when an employee leaves the company?
Regardless of whether you fire an employee or they quit, basic paperwork and legal requirements must be handled. For instance, you will have to prepare a final paycheck for the employee within the time limits set by your state’s guidelines. You will also need to get back any company property and deactivate access codes and passwords. You will need to provide the employee with continuing health benefits information if the employee is entitled to COBRA continuation coverage.
3. Question: Is an employer required to pay a severance package to an employee it fires?
In many circumstances, employers do not need to provide former employees with a severance package when they terminate their employment with the business. However, many states require that employers provide small severance packages to employees when the business is a facility or factory that is closing. Additionally, if an employee was previously assured a severance package, or if the employee being fired is working under a contract, the employer may need to follow through on previous promises and offer a severance package. If the business has a reputation of providing severance packages to former employees, then it is best practices to continue the policy.
4. Question: Can an employer fire an employee who has a contract?
If the employee does have an implied contract, an employer can fire the individual only for good cause. If there is an express written contract with an employee, and the employer wants to terminate the employee, they must follow the details and specification included in the contract. Contracts will either list reasons for which the employee can be fired or simply state that an employee can be terminated only for good cause.
5. Question: What constitutes firing an employee for good cause?
The exact meaning of good cause varies by state, but it means that an employer needs a legitimate reason for firing the employee. Usually that implies that the termination must be based on reasons related to business goals and needs. Some examples of good cause include the following:
- Poor job performance
- Refusal to follow instructions
- Low productivity
- Habitual tardiness
- Possession of a weapon at work
- Excessive absences from work
- Threats of violence
- Stealing or other criminal activity
- Violating company rules
- Revealing company trade secrets
- Endangering health and safety
- Harassing coworkers
- Preventing coworkers from doing their jobs
- Disrupting the work environment
- Insubordination6. Question: Should an employer contest a fired employee’s claim for unemployment?In most situations, it is not worth the employer’s trouble and time to contest a claim for unemployment from a fired employee. Even workers fired for cause are typically eligible for unemployment benefits. In many states, an unemployed person who was fired for reasons other than misconduct are still eligible for unemployment benefits. 7. Question: Should an employer hire a lawyer for advice on terminating an employee?Particularly, if an employer is worried that an employee might sue, they might consider consulting with legal counsel before terminating the employee for inappropriate behavior, performance problems, or misconduct.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.