Firing An Employee: 2 Good Reasons – And 2 To Avoid

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Firing an employee is always stressful, but when you’re not confident about your justifications, it can be much more difficult and even potentially risky. That’s why it’s so important that you are clear about the professional reasons why you need to let your employee go. If you don’t live in an at-will employment state, meaning that you can fire any employee for any reason – or no reason – as long as your criteria isn’t discriminatory, there are many acceptable reasons to fire a staff member.

Do: Fire For Performance Problems

Among the most common reasons that an employer might choose to fire an employee is because of poor job performance. If your employee isn’t fulfilling the requirements of the role, has been given sufficient warning, been placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP), and still failed to develop the necessary skills, then it’s time to let them go.

In cases of poor performance, it’s often quite easy to dismiss an employee; in fact, these dismissals tend to be expected, particularly if there has been a PIP involved. Such programs indicate the dismissal could be on the horizon and that your employee is in a tenuous position.

Don’t: Fire Because Of Age

It may come as a surprise given how many young people are struggling to rise through the ranks of the traditional office place, but there’s a great deal of bias against older workers, especially in tech-heavy industries. This is an unfortunate problem since many of these workers have a great deal of insight into the way technology has developed over the last several decades to meet modern needs.

Firing someone for their age is considered a form of wrongful termination because age is a protected class from a civil rights perspective. Many companies, however, attempt to disguise age-based firings with the language of “cultural fit” or other euphemisms. In doing so, you can put your entire business at risk of a discrimination lawsuit.

Do: Fire For Policy Violations

As a business, you are entitled to create and enforce company policies regulating employee behavior. This includes having a dress code, a social media policy, and other standards depending on your industry. These should be reasonable and appropriate, but ultimately what is regulated by company policy is up to management’s discretion and, as such, you can fire staff for violating company policy.

When firing for policy violations, it’s important to ensure that you are applying policies evenly across all employees. Unequal application, such as being harsher with women or individuals of a certain race, can put you in violation of federal law.

Don’t: Fire For Retaliation

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to protect your employees, and if one of them comes to you with a problem, such as having experienced sexual harassment, it falls to you to properly address that issue. Unfortunately, in some cases, employers choose to protect a harasser, especially if they hold a higher status at the company, and will instead fire the person who complained. This is considered retaliation, and it’s illegal to fire an employee for this reason.

Dismissing an employee should, at least in theory, be a straightforward task; you let go of individuals who aren’t fulfilling expectations or who are breaking company rules. Unfortunately, the reality is much more fraught, especially when at-will employment is at play. The most important thing, then, is to be confident in your decision and your reasoning. Don’t waver or seek cause where there is none. It’s the only way to dismiss an employee without worrying it will come back to bite you.