Making the decision to fire an employee can often be a difficult one. Additionally, many employers worry about the possibility of litigation arising from such an action. However, there are many instances in which terminating employees may be necessary for the company.  For example, if an employee is not performing their duties in a satisfactory manner; does not perform their duties at all; has engaged in dishonest or insubordinate acts; or the company has to eliminate the position are all valid reasons to terminate an employee.

Generally, most employer-employee relationships are “at-will” employment.  This means that employers have the right to fire employees at any time, and employees are free to leave at any time.  If there is a written contract in place stating the terms of employment, then the contractual provision applies.

However, an employer may never terminate an employee based on:

  • Discriminatory motives
  • Retaliation for whistleblowing or reporting discriminatory practices
  • Refusal to take a lie detector test
  • Immigration status
  • Jury duty

If you find that it is necessary to terminate an employee, it is best to first have a discussion with them regarding their performance and offer them a chance to improve.  It is also a good idea to have the company’s expectations laid out in an Employee Handbook to avoid any misunderstandings that should arise.  When you finally do hold the termination meeting, it is best to have it face to face with another company representative present as a witness, in a neutral location.

During the termination meeting, it is best to be direct and stick to factually based points.  In addition, an employer should specifically state that the employee is being terminated to avoid any confusion about what transpired during the meeting.  Be prepared to tie up any lose ends with the employee such as when they will receive their final pay, as well as whether they are offered severance pay, etc.

If you have any questions concerning the legality of terminating employees, or how to go about the process, contact an experienced business law attorney who can guide you and help avoid the possibility of a termination lawsuit.  Call the business attorneys at Bellavia Blatt, PC at (516) 873-3000 or (631) 224-7000.