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Job Termination: How to Avoid Breaking Laws When Firing Employees

Are Your Job Termination Actions Within the Limits of the Law?

Many employers consider job termination to be one of their most difficult tasks. Yet it is often necessary. Taking disciplinary action is generally done prior to firing, and while in some cases warnings are adequate and help avoid job termination, in other instances they are precursors to termination.

How can you ensure your actions stay within the law?

Important Steps to Take to Protect Your Rights as an Employer

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends that employers take a look at their reasons for disciplinary action or for firing an employee and ensure discrimination is not a factor.

An employer can run down the following checklist and evaluate accordingly:

  • Are there indications that the discipline or job termination is related to race, color, religion, sex (includes pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years or older), or genetic information (family medical history would apply)?
  • Is the disciplinary action/termination based on the fact an employee decided to a) report discrimination b) participate in a discrimination investigation/lawsuit or c) file a discrimination complaint?
  • Is the decision for disciplining/terminating an employee consistent with company policy? If not, is there justification for treating the employee differently?
  • Have you documented the reason or reasons for discipline or job termination?
  • Have you explained to the employee the reason behind your decision to discipline or terminate employment?
  • Are you responding quickly to a discrimination complaint regarding disciplinary action and handling it effectively?
  • Are you retaining disciplinary records? Records are important because if the employee files a complaint with the EEOC based on discrimination, the employer’s records play an important role in resolving the issue.

If you have questions, consult with our attorneys at Stephen Hans & Associates. We are glad to offer legal advice and representation based on decades of employment law defense experience.