“Is it legal to fire an employee I just don’t like?” The fact that this question is asked so often is reflective of the great legal changes transpiring constantly in the business world. In decades past, there would have been no question about whether or not an employer could discharge an employee for any reason—or no apparent reason at all.
In today’s litigious culture, things have changed. As an employment lawyer from a firm like May Law, LLP can explain, many employers are not certain about what reasons may be given to justify letting a worker go, or whether or not legal justification is required. To answer a question such as this, several terms must be addressed.
Defining Some Important Terms
“Can I fire an employee I simply dislike,” is not a question easily answered. Some important qualifications may come into play, as defined in these terms:
- “With or without cause”: this refers to the contractual agreements under which an employee was hired. If a contract states an employee may be terminated without cause, it may be totally up to the discretion of the employer to discharge the employee.
- “At-will”: this refers to the legal doctrine of certain states and employers as to the right to hire an employee and fire an employee at-will. Employers must know whether or not your state and your company have “at-will” freedom.
- “Federal protections”: this refers to the inalienable rights every employee has which, regarding this discussion, means a person cannot be fired if doing so would violate the employee’s legal or constitutional rights.
- “Disciplinary procedure”: this refers to a company’s stated, written policies that spell out the steps leading to termination. To avoid running afoul of the law, employers must follow their own stated guidelines.
Covering Your Legal Bases
Many employers have experienced the grave irony of terminating an employee who was causing the company a problem only to encounter more serious problems because of how the worker was fired. One wise course of action, before terminating a troublesome worker, is to consult with a business lawyer who is trained and skilled in human resources issues.
Working for the Success of Your Business
While every worker has rights and the prerogative to exercise them, it is also true that employers and the businesses they lead have the right and the obligation to create and maintain an efficient, productive workplace. A key element of a highly functional business is a cooperative, harmonious workforce. A business attorney can help you determine and enforce your rights as an employer.