Disclaimer: This article should not be treated as legal advice. It’s recommended that readers still consult legal counsel and contact a lawyer should they have any concerns regarding wrongful termination.
Working for a livelihood is an integral part of our personal life, and as professionals we strive to maintain a good relationship with our employers and employees. Unfortunately, there really is the possibility of encountering unfavorable circumstances on both sides of the fence and, if unmitigated, could lead to poor performance and even termination.
In certain situations, a former employee can feel that a recent termination has been wrongful, and may even decide to take legal action. In this situation, called a wrongful termination suit, your company’s lawyers may have to decide whether to pursue the case or to try and negotiate a settlement, among other options.
When it comes to things like work, it’s important to be clear with what we want to happen in the company as this sets the direction for everyone to take. The same could be said when it comes to our employees. If you want to avoid wrongful termination suits, then it’s important that we define work expectations clearly and carefully to our employees.
- It’s important to have a system that can identify the objectives of the company especially to the kind of performance we want our employees to have. It may help if we advise the employee on whether or not they’re meeting the standards we expect of them. Part of this can be good training and motivation as well.
- Likewise, when it comes to having to terminate an employee, it might be essential to document the processes involved. This can especially be important if the employee in question is being terminated as a result of disciplinary measures.
- Keeping records can go a long way when it comes to avoiding any form of litigation, and it serves as proof that there are procedures being followed.
Avoid Thoughtless Termination
In the same token, it’s not advisable to simply “just” terminate employees. If we do want to avoid wrongful termination suits, then we must make sure there are appropriate protocols in place when it comes to terms of termination, and we should make sure these are properly explained to our employees.
- For instance, it may be important to remember that being terminated is a form of rejection, and not everyone takes this the same way. It may be important to us to help place the termination in a position that allows it to help the employee understand that while they may be leaving your company, they may be happier with a company that would better suit them.
- This method may not work all the time, but a bit of positive interaction, empathy, and compassion may go a long way. In fact, it can help if you offer some form of severance or some form of help for a short while. Of course, if you do provide this option, ask a lawyer familiar with these matters if it’s advisable to have them sign a release or waiver in order to collect this.
Avoid Ignoring Liability Insurance
Liability insurance can be quite the expensive option, especially in a climate like today when even the smallest things can cost a lot. However, the cost of liability insurance can be small compared to the stress and financial burdens a lawsuit can bring. This is important to consider as defending a termination can be quite expensive for the employer.
- In this situation, sometimes it may be better to settle instead of going to court, and a lot of cost benefit analysis and review can come to this. You may ask your lawyer if liability insurance is a good option for you.
- Try to ask for the right to select your lawyer and try to make sure the insurance company gets your consent first before actually agreeing to a form of settlement. Another helpful tip to be reviewed with a lawyer is to see if it’s more useful to have the coverage as “per claim” instead of “per claimant.”
Sometimes we tend to forget that one of the best ways to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits is to make sure we don’t break the law. After all, it’s not exactly fun to be accused of wrongful termination if you know you followed all the rules.
- In fact, it might be helpful to have an employee handbook with all the guidelines employees need to follow. Guidelines and policies that are easy to understand can go a long way when it comes to your defense. Employees should be given a handbook right after they start, and you may be recommended to have them sign a document that indicates they have received and accepted the manual in question. Try to work with someone knowledgeable in human resources and/or employment law as well.
- Also, try to make sure that your employees have some way of communicating their concerns with you or their direct supervisor. Remember, as managers or employers, we have the responsibility of making sure we open up lines of efficient and effective communication. Protocol on communicating concerns is an integral part of employee training, and understanding these responsibilities and rights may help employees be happier.
As professionals, we all strive for a good working environment in order for us to do our job to our full capacity. Sometimes, we have to accept that there will be situations where we won’t match with the companies we choose. There will also be situations where we, as employers, won’t be good matches with our employees.
What we can avoid, however, are situations where we have to let go of an employee without appropriate protocol in check. Through the help of good company practices and advice from legal and other work professionals, we might actually be able to avoid wrongful termination suits.
Cecille Cunningham loves writing for the common reader, especially on helping them make sense of various topics on the law. She currently writes for multiple law firms. In her spare time she cooks for his family and friends