Employers have a lot of leeway with at-will employment here in the Northeast. However, employees may not see it that way and accuse the company of wrongful termination. Using an abundance of caution, businesses can often protect themselves from such claims.
What is the definition of “wrongful”?
Employers can generally terminate employment for any or no reason at all. The notable exceptions are a breach of an employment contract or grounds in violation of civil laws. So, the company cannot terminate workers on the grounds of:
- Refusing to work in unsafe work conditions
- Other legal protections, including OSHA and Title VII
Documentation is protection
Employers and employees will have differing opinions on how events unfolded, so it is essential to document everything related to the employee’s job and performance. Accurate records can provide clear evidence that their grounds were legal. This can include:
- Poor performance reviews
- Voicemail, documentation, emails or correspondence that details clashes with coworkers or management
- Complaints about the employee from customers or clients
- Other details of employee misconduct
- An employee handbook that outlines expectations and conditions of employment
Further legal help may be necessary
Companies may also want to have outside legal counsel review the information before terminating the employee. These legal professionals can verify the legality of unpopular decisions and help minimize the legal fallout if the circumstances are murky or complicated. This can give peace of mind to owners, managers and human resources staff.