Employers in an at-will state like Florida should be able to fire an underperforming employee anytime they want. Employees who exhibit poor work performance and inappropriate workplace conduct can adversely affect a business’s success and growth. The problem is when the employee you rightfully terminated accuses you of wrongful termination, which they can try to base on employment discrimination.
They might say you fired them because of their age or sex. The employee can even argue that the termination is a form of retaliation against them for participating in protected activity or speaking out about baseless complaints. Because state and federal laws heavily protect the rights of employees, employers should also safeguard their own rights and their company’s interests.
How can you protect yourself from wrongful termination claims?
Fortunately, their claims can be invalid if they do not have evidence directly suggesting a discriminatory motive behind your choice to terminate them. An employee must be able to prove you treated them differently compared to other employees who are not members of a protected class. Therefore, you must prove that the termination is based on facts and not bias. You can do this by taking the following measures:
- Establishing company guidelines and policies
- Setting goals and expectations for all employees
- Conducting regular performance reviews for all employees
- Having employees sign an employment handbook confirming they agree to the company policies and guidelines
- Providing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training programs
- Equalizing the implementation of the company’s best practices
- Keeping a thorough record of employee performance and evaluations
You should let the employee know you are firing them because they are not meeting the company’s expectations, and you have records to prove it. Mediation can help you get your point across more effectively without the need to litigate.
How mediation can help employers with wrongful termination claims
Mediation can allow you to talk to the employee with the guidance of a neutral third-party mediator. You can communicate your feelings openly and let the employee realize why the termination was necessary. It can also be an avenue to discuss the employee’s strengths and how a career change may benefit them.