Protecting Your Company from Retaliation Claims After a Firing

Inevitably, as your business grows and shifts, employee turnover becomes a fact of life and it will become necessary to hire and fire employees. As you move forward in the life of your business, it is important to note that not only must businesses allow and provide mechanisms for employees to report claims of discrimination and harassment, but also prove that any firing following a complaint of discrimination or harassment was not retaliation for that employee’s complaint. Some examples of workplace retaliation include demotions, reassignments, reduced pay, or even termination.

To ensure that you are operating in a just and legal way when it comes to your employees, consider the following best practices for dismissing employees.

Make Sure You are Firing an Employee for a Clear Reason

Employment is “at-will” in Texas which means the employee or employer can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason. However, if an employee can prove that the reason for his or her termination was retaliatory, then that employee may file a lawsuit against you as the employer.

Be clear about the specific reasons you are terminating the employment relationship, give the employee notice in writing, and provide specific examples of the employee’s inadequate performance. If you are dismissing employees as part of layoffs because your business is downsizing, it is also important to maintain financial records from the period of time when the staff reduction was necessary. These things will allow you to challenge any claim of retaliation with a legitimate non-retaliatory reason for the termination.

Maintain Records of the Employee’s Performance

Having regular performance reviews can help your business keep records of an employee’s performance and can help you justify your choice to dismiss an employee if and when that time comes. Creating documentation of an employee’s inadequate performance or poor behavior will show a more complete history of your interaction with the employee and can validate a termination for cause.

Termination for cause occurs when an employee’s actions in the workplace, interactions with coworkers or supervisors, or ways in which they treat a customer or vendor are so egregious that they require employment termination, and occasionally this dismissal can occur immediately.

Prepare for the Termination Conversation

Have answers to questions about when the employee will be allowed to collect his or her belongings and when his or her last paycheck and any documents or items you have collected in the employee’s personnel file will be available.

Show Respect and Patience in the Termination Process

Helping a terminated employee accept the news of their employment separation can be a very difficult process.  Show employees respect and demonstrate patience when answering their questions. This may limit the amount of adverse interaction that can stem from a dismissal.

Most importantly, keep the best interests of your business in mind and if you are facing a challenge relating to a dismissal or a potential retaliation lawsuit, contact the legal professionals at Simon Paschal, PLLC. They can help you face lawsuits, develop a termination plan, and provide consulting and assistance on any other HR matter.

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