Letting someone go is almost always difficult. As an employer, it is important for you to know how to terminate someone’s employment and to minimize the chance of getting sued in the process. Discharging an employee is seldom simple, and there will be emotions involved, but you want to be prepared if they try to seek legal action.
What can you do to minimize the risk of being sued when you end someone’s employment?
First, review your employee handbook and any agreement that you may have with your employee to make sure that you aren’t in violation of your agreement or policies. Next, make sure that your reasons for termination are permissible and justified. You want to rely on a legitimate, non-discriminatory business reason. Remember that you cannot take an adverse employment action against someone for protected reasons, such as reasons related to their race, age, religion, or pregnancy.
You may also want to clearly document any disciplinary action you take against the employee. Be specific and make sure that you follow all of the rules.
Lastly, when meeting with the employee, keep your final conversation to the point. You can explain why you’re terminating this employee but don’t engage in debates, arguments or personal attacks.
Most importantly, when you do decide to terminate an employee’s employment, remember that this is stressful for them. Even if they’re not a good fit for your company, you should be respectful — but don’t be afraid to hold your ground.
People make all kinds of threats when they’re angry, so don’t be surprised if an employee tells you they plan to sue you for wrongful termination or discrimination. It’s important not to panic. If your paperwork is in order and you followed all the correct procedures, you should be in a strong position to defend your actions in court or before a government agency.