PEO Horizon: A Publication of

IN THIS ISSUE: Firing an Employee on the Spot

This is a quarterly newsletter. Each issue covers one specific area of employer liabilities with suggestions to control that liability. You are not to rely on this publication as legal advice and must seek competent legal assistance.

Firing an Employee on the Spot

In the modern business landscape, employees can resign and employers can fire “at-will,” without notice or reason. Most state laws have adopted an “at-will” policy due to everyday realities of the workplace: often employees fail to get along with co-workers or supervisors, they under perform, or employers wish to drop some dead weight in order for business to grow.
In the best case scenario for both parties, the employee will own up to his shortcomings by being honest in his next job interview about why he was released. This will usually be the case where the employer has given the underachieving employee reprimands, warnings, or counseling about his performance. Both the employer and employee will have moved on personally and professionally.
But sometimes employees will be surprisingly released after being told some time ago by superiors that their job performance was satisfactory, or that everything is “just fine.” Or the employee has picked up on unofficial warning signs like attitude changes or fewer work assignments, and he feels pressured to resign in the face of looming termination. Notwithstanding the common at-will arrangement in the workplace, employers need to tread carefully. While the law of the state in which the company is located will determine if the employer must give prior notice of a separation, blindsiding an employee with a pink slip or even a mutual separation agreement may open the doors to litigation.
Evidence involving an employer puffing to a fired employee about his job performance can lead to wrongful termination lawsuits. This is especially likely if the employee belongs to a class of people given special protection in the employment discrimination laws. When an employee is fired without prior notice, no matter how long he was employed, he instantly becomes a risky investment for future employers who are bringing aboard somebody who was fired. Therefore, the stigma of getting fired is both personal and professional, and the employee may seek compensation on both grounds.
What can you do if you are faced with a difficult employee or a substandard worker? A PEO will defend your case if you report in detail your problems to the PEO before taking any adverse action against the employee. The PEO will instruct you how to take proper legal measures in termination so that you can avoid any litigation hassle. Even if the employee plans to bring suit anyway, the PEO will assume complete control over the matter so that you can run your business without concern.
However, informing your PEO is an essential first step toward expedient resolution. A qualified PEO can help you reduce your exposure and let you get back to the business of running your business. For more information go to Fill out this form to get more info and proposals on employee leasing services.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Sheehan is a licensed attorney and a member of the State Bar of California.

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