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When is it Illegal to Fire an Employee & The Cost of Employee Turnover

Manager firing a female employee

Almost every company has had an employee who was simply toxic. This person may have brought down morale with a persistently negative attitude, stolen from the office, or constantly clocked in fewer than eight hours a day. These types of workers come with emotional and financial costs for companies.

The cost of employee turnover is huge. Theft alone costs companies $200 billion a year. Frequent turnover also has emotional effects, such as decreased employee morale.

Firing an employee is never an easy decision, but in some cases, it must be done. The trick is to ensure it is done legally to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.

Signs of a Bad Employee

As an employer, what are the signs you should look for that signal that a worker may need to be fired in the near future?

  • You have given the employee a second chance, but things are still not improving.
  • You have to choose your words carefully due to an employee’s emotional instability.
  • The employee is not a good fit with the company culture.
  • The employee constantly makes excuses or blames others for mistakes.
  • The employee has distorted the truth or lied on multiple occasions.
  • The employee has gaps in performance.
  • The employee has trouble creating relationships with co-workers and customers.
  • The employee displays passive-aggressive behavior.

How to Fire an Employee Legally

To avoid a lawsuit, employers need to follow the law when laying off bad employees. This includes making sure the employee is not under contract. Contracts and agreements can void an at-will employment situation.

Make sure to document the reasons for firing for the employee. Was the employee tardy every day? Was he or she disciplined? Did the employee commit a crime? Take notes of incidents that make the firing more legitimate and not simply a random action.

Make sure you are aware of the benefits your employee is entitled to receive. The final paycheck must be issued by the next scheduled payday.

When is it Illegal to Fire an Employee?

Even when employment is at will, there are situations in which firing an employee for a certain reason is illegal. First and foremost, you cannot discriminate against an employee and fire him or her based solely on gender, age, religion, disability or other protected class.

You also cannot fire whistleblowers. For example, if an employee made a complaint about a safety issue, incident of discrimination, or company policy, you cannot fire that person for making the claim. Another situation in which a worker cannot be fired is when that employee is exercising his or her legal rights. Voting, attending jury duty, or taking medical or family leave are examples of this.

Contact a New York Wrongful Termination Attorney

While employment for the most part is at-will, there are situations in which firing a person can be illegal. It is a good idea to understand the laws surrounding the hiring and firing of employees.

Whether you are an employer wanting to know more about the law or an employee who is the victim of wrongful termination, the experienced New York wrongful termination attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help. We know state and federal laws and can help you resolve your issues. Schedule your consultation today by calling (800) 240-9269.

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