The day will come as an employer when you know you have a tough decision in front of you. Firing an employee can be an uncomfortable experience for both of you and it is a matter that should be handled pragmatically and with delicacy. In a worst case scenario, your employee could fire back at you with a lawsuit. Read below to learn more about how to protect yourself against a potential lawsuit and what you can do to prevent a disgruntled employee from taking action against your business.
Prepare for the termination before you make any rash decisions. This includes getting all the paperwork together to clearly demonstrate the reasons for your employee's termination. You should specifically collect attendance records, performance evaluations and disciplinary action forms. This helps reinforce the decision you have made and shows the employee that you have a legitimate business reason for firing them.
Also worth considering is evaluating whether or not your employee is part of a protected class. Federal and state law prohibits terminating employees based on, among other classifications, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy and gender. If your employee feels discriminated against, you could have a lawsuit on your hands. Work with them carefully and deliberately to be sure that you have proper proof of misconduct or performance that has nothing to do with any of the protected classifications cited above.
Depending on the terms of hiring, you may also need to work through the issues of severance pay and health insurance. If your employee was receiving her health insurance through your company, you will need to discuss with her the option of electing COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). COBRA is federal law that allows employees to pay the premiums to keep the group insurance policy they had with their former employer, usually up to 18 months post-termination.
Lastly, some employers may choose to give severance pay. This can give peace of mind to both the employer and employee, as well as help end things on good terms. Severance could be any amount of money depending on the situation, but the rule of thumb is about one week severance pay for each year of the employee's service to the company. In exchange, the employee signs a release of all claims or potential claims against the company. By giving your former employee a little bit of extra money and time to job hunt, you are potentially protecting yourself from any legal backlash.
When you take these precautions, you will be in a stronger position if your employee decides to file a lawsuit against you.
To learn more about the issues concerning employee termination, visit the EEOC website and contact Danz & Kronengold, P.L. at www.danzlaw.net for information about any employment issue.