As an employer, letting someone go can be a hard decision, even when you have valid reasons. It can be rather unfortunate when you find yourself facing a wrongful termination lawsuit when you know too well you did not break the law in dismissing them. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is necessary to counter such claims.
Wrongfully terminating an employee is against the law. Even though most workers in California are at-will employees, you cannot fire your employee for certain illegal and discriminatory reasons. For instance, if they participated in legally protected activities like reporting a workplace harassment claim or filing a workers’ compensation claim, it cannot form the basis of dismissal.
What is at stake?
If it is found that you terminated them unlawfully, you may have to reinstate them or compensate them for missed wages or benefits. In addition, it may point to a discriminatory culture at the workplace, and your organization’s reputation may be affected.
What do you need to do?
If you establish that your reason for the separation was based on a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason, it should not be a wrongful termination. Some of the evidence that may validate your reasons, which will depend on the reason for separation, include:
- Performance reports
- Attendance logs
- Any prior disciplinary actions that were taken
- Statements from their colleagues
It is equally important to develop a termination plan or procedure to ensure you can establish the adverse employment action was taken for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons. This involves, among other things, considering possible arguments the terminated employee may make.
You should always be prepared to deal with such issues as an employer. Conflicts at the workplace are almost unavoidable, and how you handle them will affect your organization in one way or the other.