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What the law has to say about terminating employees

As a business owner, you understandably want to see your operations thrive and your employee ranks filled by individuals who are not just competent, but actually passionate about their work.

While this is a laudable and perfectly achievable objective, the reality is that there will be times when you learn that an employee does not possess these desired traits or is simply not a good fit despite your best efforts. Indeed, you may find yourself asking whether it's best for everyone -- and the business -- for both sides to part ways.

This decision to terminate an employee, while unfortunate, can also prove to be unnerving, as you likely have concerns about inadvertently violating their rights or otherwise exposing yourself to possible legal action.

In light of these concerns, today's post, the first in a series, will start taking a closer look at some important points that employers looking to fire an employee will want to consider when finding themselves in these always regretful situations.

At-will employment     

Any discussion of terminating employees must naturally be prefaced by a discussion of at-will employment.

This legal concept, which is the reality in 49 states, including Florida, dictates that employers can essentially fire their employees for any reason, or no reason at all, without warning. Indeed, the majority of people in the U.S. workforce are subject to this employer-employee relationship.

While this may seem like a fairly harsh reality, the theories advanced by experts for its longstanding existence are that it provides both employers and employees with freedom of movement, meaning both sides are vested with the power to do what's in their best interests.

It's important for employers to understand, however, that their power to terminate employees is by no means limitless.

We'll examine the circumstances under which it is illegal for an employer to fire an at-will employee in our next post, as well as some other important considerations for employers in this situation to keep in mind.

In the meantime, if you are an employer who would like to discuss your options as they relate to terminating an employee or other pressing concerns, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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