There is not a business owner anywhere in the world who takes pleasure in terminating his or her employees. While it may be emotionally stressful at the time, there are also numerous laws on the local, state and federal level you must abide by before you can let someone go. You don’t want to fire someone only to get hit with a wrongful termination lawsuit in the future. Though the act of firing itself is a straightforward one, you likely still have questions about how to approach the situation. Keep reading for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on the subject.
Do I Need a Reason to Fire an Employee?
What Do I Tell Other Employers Who Ask About a Person I Let Go?
Are All Fired Employees Entitled to Severance Packages?
If an Employee Makes a False Complaint About the Company, Can I Fire Him or Her?
Generally speaking, you cannot just fire an employee on a whim, though state laws usually give employers like you a significant amount of slack to determine the process by which you make your decisions. However, keep in mind there are laws in place to prevent business owners from terminating employees based on their gender, disability, age, race, national origin or religion, as these all fall under the umbrella of discrimination. Additionally, a worker cannot be fired because he or she made a legitimate complaint to the government about illegal business activities or for taking family leave time. If the troublesome employee works for you under a contract, then you need to read over the details of the document and make sure you fulfill any promises you made and address any language regarding termination.
The comments you make to other employers about former employees is entirely up to you. If you believe the individual in question is not deserving of a good recommendation, then you are not required to be untruthful about your beliefs. However, if this is the case, by no means should you make the situation personal and start complaining about him or her, as this has the potential to lead to a defamation lawsuit that could severely damage your reputation and the company’s. It is safer to instead remain somewhat tight-lipped. Provide the dates of the person’s employment with you and leave it at that.
Under most circumstances, you are under no obligation to provide a former employee with a severance package. However, it is important to check your state laws before you make any assumptions, as some do require small severance packages be granted to workers who lost their jobs as a result of the facility in which they worked being closed. If a severance package has been promised to an employee either verbally by you or via a contract, it is a good policy to make good on that promise, as it preserves your reputation as a fair employer in the working community.
This is a subject that tends to get into muddy waters as the whistleblower laws and other legalese surrounding it makes the right course of action difficult to determine. Whistleblower laws protect workers who report the illegal activity of their employers as long as they do so with good intentions. Even if the accusation was unfounded, you could still get in trouble for terminating one of these employees if the complaint was filed in good faith. That being said, if an employee reports the company knowing the accusation is false, you are free to terminate him or her.
When it comes to firing employees, it pays to take some time to do your homework. As long as you stay within your legal rights, you and your company will be able to move forward without a hitch.
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