How do I protect my company from a claim of wrongful termination?
Protecting your company from a claim of wrongful termination begins long before an actual termination occurs. It involves proactive measures, compliance with labor laws, and consistent documentation practices. Here are key steps to consider:
- Clear Employment Policies: Have an employee handbook that outlines company policies, including grounds for termination. Ensure that every employee receives a copy and ideally, signs an acknowledgment of receipt and understanding.
- Regular Training: Conduct regular training sessions for managers and HR personnel on employment laws and best practices for hiring, evaluations, and terminations.
- Document Performance Issues: Always document any performance or behavioral issues. If an employee is underperforming or violating company policies, these issues should be noted, and the employee should be informed in writing. This documentation can help demonstrate that a termination was for legitimate reasons.
- Consistent Treatment: Ensure that all employees are treated consistently. Inconsistent disciplinary actions can be seen as evidence of discrimination or retaliation.
- Legal Grounds: Learn about both federal and state employment laws. Some laws prohibit termination based on certain protected characteristics like race, gender, religion, or disability. Be sure that any termination isn’t violating these protections.
- Consideration for Protected Activities: Be cautious when terminating employees who have recently engaged in protected activities like whistleblowing, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or taking family medical leave. Such terminations can be viewed as retaliatory.
- Severance and Release: In some cases, offering a severance package in exchange for a signed release agreement can be beneficial. This agreement would have the departing employee waive the right to sue the company for wrongful termination.
- Seek Legal Counsel: Before making a termination decision that you believe may be contentious, consider visiting with an attorney. The employment law attorneys at Hone Law can provide guidance tailored to your situation and ensure you’re acting within the confines of the law.
In summary, while no strategy can guarantee complete immunity from wrongful termination claims, diligent practices, adherence to laws, and consistent documentation can significantly reduce your company’s risk.