How to prevent legal issues when firing an employee

How to prevent legal issues when firing an employee
Photo: Rawpixel.com, Pexels.

Employment is a necessary function in business in order to grow. As it’s something that employers do willingly, they also have the power to pretty much fire an employee for any reason – as long as it’s not an illegal reason. However, even a reason that is legal can also come across illegal depending on the circumstance.

There has to be a legitimate reason why you’ve fired an employee with sufficient evidence and a proper case towards it, as let’s face it not all employees will take accountability for their actions. Below are a set of questions that you should ask yourself before you go ahead and fire an employee.

Have the policies that you’ve put in place been followed?

First and foremost, if you’re considering firing an employee there should be careful consideration as to whether all policies have been followed correctly from your end. If you need to be sure, check the employee handbook for confirmation. It outlines all the policies and information about the disciplinary action if something was to take place. This will provide a clear explanation as to whether the employee has crossed any boundaries or not. At the same time, you need to be sure that you’ve treated the employee fairly compared with other staff members because they can file a lawsuit against you for being treated unfairly.

Have issues been documented?

Another way to minimize legal risk is to make sure that any issues that support your reason for firing have been documented and kept in the staff’s profile. By having documents available, it means that you have hard evidence for your case to fire an employee. This is particularly useful if there are specific incidents that you can refer to and you have sufficient evidence to refer with your case. At the same time, the involvement of other persons should also be documented with their version of any incidents that occurred. It can help to document statements that are signed as confirmation as it’s an acknowledgement of receipt. Having these documents can be used in cases that might be taken to legal proceedings if the employee may feel that they’ve dismissed unfairly.

How to prevent legal issues when firing an employee
Photo: Rawpixel.com, Pexels.

Has there been a complaint made by the employee recently?

One thing that employers should be extremely cautious about is whether the employee you’re looking to fire has made a complaint recently. If they have and you’re now in the process of firing them it can come across extremely suspicious. It looks as though you’re covering something up and retaliating from the employee’s complaint by firing them. Any complaint that an employee makes should be taken seriously, with a thorough investigation and any evidence being documented for reference. If it is just a case that the timing of the complaint compared to the time of firing is coincidental, ensure that the reasons for firing are well within the policies and are well documented.

Has the employee been paid correctly?

Another factor that you should check before firing an employee is to check whether or not they’ve been paid correctly. It can be a major issue for you if you decide to fire an employee and they haven’t been paid correctly as the employee can file a lawsuit against you for unpaid wages. This can be a completely separate issue to the reason you’ve decided to fire them so ensure these details are correct to save embarrassment. 

Consult with a lawyer just in case

If you’ve read through this article and feel as though any of the questions above are relative to your current situation, it may be worth consulting with a dispute resolution lawyer first before deciding to take any action. If the employee you’re firing falls under any of these questions, there could be a legal risk to you and your business. Consulting with a lawyer will allow them to assess the situation and provide you with the relevant guidance on how to approach the situation. By considering all possible factors, they’ll then be able to provide the best course of action.

What do you think about it?