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Can you terminate someone’s employment on their first day?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2021 | Employment Law

There are situations when it becomes clear very quickly that a new hire is not a good fit. If you notice this and decide to separate their employment on their first day on the job, they’re probably going to feel that this is unfair and unjust.

While this emotional response by the former employee is understandable, do they have any legal ground to stand on? In other words, does it breach employment laws?

If you have at-will employees, you may separate employment with them at any time

An employer can terminate someone’s employment on their first day as long as they were hired under basic at-will employment laws and you have a legitimate business reason for doing so. These laws do not provide any timeframe for the firing, but simply say that employers can separate employment for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory and based on a legitimate business reason. But it doesn’t say that they need any amount of time on the job before they can be discharged.

There are exceptions if your company has given them a contract or has a specific policy saying people will not be fired this quickly. For instance, some companies ensure all employees that they will get a warning before being fired. If that employee was not warned prior to the firing on their first day, they may argue that their rights were violated because things moved too quickly. However, this is not likely the case for the vast majority of workers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the employee is not going to attempt to file a lawsuit or claim for wrongful termination. If they do, make sure you know exactly what steps your company needs to take.