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Firing an employee: Insulate your company from a lawsuit first

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2017 | Business Law |

If you stay in business long enough, it’s bound to happen: You’ll have to fire an employee.

Nobody likes this part of being a boss. It’s unpleasant. It has the potential to get messy. You may personally even like the employee — but liking someone and allowing him or her to wreck your business are two different things.

Here’s the thing: Unless you’ve given real advance thought to how you are going to go about terminating employees who don’t work out, you could be opening yourself up for liability and a nasty civil suit if the employee claims you were unfair or discriminatory.

Make a plan if you don’t already have one

Experts recommend that the moment you realize that the day is coming where you’re going to have to fire someone, you start building a progressive discipline plan.

Progressive discipline plans lay out the penalties for poor job performance — each one more severe than the last — for repeat offenses. This puts you on solid ground and gives you the documentation you need to show that the firing was legitimately performance-based.

The plan needs to be broad-minded and able to be applied equally

Here are some basic starting points of an effective termination plan:

1. Document everything. The more documentation you have that backs up your reason for firing the employee, the better insulated you are against an unfavorable legal judgment.

2. Communicate the problem and the goals. Make sure that you are clear with your employee about what the problems are and what has to change immediately. Let it be known that this warning is the only warning — after the initial contact, there will be punishments in place.

3. Follow through. If you don’t, you’re not only allowing one rogue employee to wreck your business, you’re setting the stage so that none of your employees will take you seriously. Make sure that you always play it straight with your employee — you can be honest and say, “Your work hasn’t been what we’ve expected or needed,” without being unnecessarily offensive.

If your budding company is starting to blossom, it may be time to invest in something every small business needs: an attorney experienced with employment law who can keep you out of litigation. Our firm has a range of services related to your business needs and may be able to help you.


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