How to Fire an Employee and Avoid a Lawsuit

Written by ehow business editor
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email

Some believe that firing an employee may lead to a lawsuit, but this is not true. You, as a employer, have the right to fire anyone that you employ for cause. The problems come when you don't do it properly. If you run a Union shop you must follow the Union rules. Firing someone should be a last resort but may be a necessary one.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


    Deciding to Fire an Employee

  1. 1

    Investigate the reasons behind the firing. If a person's supervisor has asked that a person she supervises be fired, find out what the circumstances are.

  2. 2

    Check records. See if this employee has done similar things or has been written up before. Determine if anyone has been penalized or fired for the same thing.

  3. 3

    Review any written policies that pertain to termination of an employee. Check to see if the employee has indeed violated policy.

  4. 4

    Consider what the employee has been told about the infraction he has been accused of. If this is a minor indiscretion and it is the first time this incident has occurred, perhaps a warning letter would suffice.

  5. 5

    Compare what this employee has done with what other employees have been fired for. If this employee gets fired and another employee has done the very same thing and is still working there, you may end up with a problem.

  6. 6

    Look at all of your options. If this employee has been a model employee up to this point, you may want to consider a warning or a verbal reprimand. If this employee has been a constant problem, you can use this opportunity to get rid of the headaches she has caused.

  7. 7

    Hire an attorney to review the details of the termination if you feel that the employee is apt to sue for damages.

  8. 8

    Document everything that has been done involving the termination of any employee. Keep your records long after the employee has left.


  1. 1

    Keep the employee's rights in mind. An "at will" employee has certain basic rights even though she might have been hired in an "at will" status. Employers may not fire employees in a way that discriminates, violates public policy or conflicts with written or implied promises they make concerning the length of employment or grounds for termination.

  2. 2

    Remember that termination of an "at will" employee may not be documented with any unfavorable record unless the charge has been examined and justified. Putting unfavorable information into an employee's file could leave you open for a lawsuit.

  3. 3

    Stick to the law. Firing someone because that person is pregnant, has recently given birth, or has a related medical condition, is a violation of Federal Law. To find out if your business is covered by these federal laws, see a copy of the Federal Anti -discrimination Laws.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that you have a witness that will testify about the proceedings. Firing someone without a witness can end up in court with a he said she said scenario.
  • In the case of for-cause termination, the incident should be mentioned only briefly, in a non-defamatory manner. If anyone calls and asks for a reference do not give anyone a bad reference. You may refuse to give details about why the employee was terminated.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.