Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 54 seconds

We’ve watched movies and television shows that depict a wrongful termination plot line. An unlikely underdog who was wrongfully fired goes up against an evil corporation and wins. He is the hero of his own story and begins a new life with the money he won, that was rightfully his all along. 

But if you’re a legal consultant at a big corporation you may shift uncomfortably in your seat at these scenes. This scenario most likely has happened to your company- a disgruntled employee sues for wrongful termination. Whether it was just or not, that accusation alone can be damaging to any organization. While, it may prove difficult for the employee to win  a wrongful termination suit it’s best not have to worry about it in the first place.

While there’s no fool-proof way to ensure your business doesn’t get slapped with a lawsuit, there are avenues you can take to minimize the risk. The first step to take is to ensure that all of your employees are familiar with the rules and regulations of the workplace. Setting expectations will better equip your employees to thrive in the work environment and make the right decisions.  This can be done by training your staff, especially managers and bosses who will be in charge of holding workers responsible. Have documents readily available for staff to refer to at any time during the year- whether it’s a handbook, webinar, assets, or all three. By being transparent with your staff, you are cutting down the risk of a disgruntled employee claiming that they did not realize their action was a fireable offense. 

After you set expectations it’s crucial that you hold staff accountable to these rules. If you only hold certain workers to these expectations, it can look like a boss or manager is playing favorites – and that can be used against your company in a future lawsuit. Have managers and bosses document every warning, suspension, or issue they have with the employee. By documenting these instances where a staff member did not follow procedure, can be used to prove in court why they were ultimately terminated. Many companies get into an issue where they fire an employee because they were late too many times- yet never had documentation that this actually happened. Your word, while trustworthy, will not hold up in court as effectively as written documentation proving that the worker was chronically late.

When you go to fire an employee make sure you don’t do it on a whim or out of an emotional response. People need their jobs to support their families and to pay their bills. No one takes being fired lightly, and emotions will run high. Ask yourself these questions before you ultimately fire an employee:

  1. Did I set clear expectations for the employee?
  2. Did I give the employee ample warning?
  3. Were the rules and regulations well stated?
  4. Did I try to work with the employee to better educate him on what he’s doing wrong and what he could do different?
  5. Is there a lesser action I could take such as a warning or suspension?

The most important legal advice a company can have is to know the laws pertaining to a wrongful termination suit. By knowing the laws of what constitutes a wrongful termination suit, a legal department can feel confident that they are making the correct decision as to whether a termination is permissible.

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Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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