Firing an employee is one of the most difficult parts of being a business owner, but sometimes employees don't work out. Before letting an employee go however, you should ensure that you are doing so legally. Human resources laws and other business laws can make it difficult to simply terminate an employee. You need to be sure that your reasoning is legitimate and you do everything by the book.
Make sure there is proof
One of the most important things to remember before firing someone is that you need to make sure the reason behind it is valid. It is easier to do this when everything is in writing. If your employee has always received stellar reviews, but is then accused of bad performance, try to consider why. Findlaw offers advice on its blog, "If an employee is being accused of incompetence by a supervisor ask for documentation of the incompetence. Not only will this confirm the supervisor's opinion, it will protect you in the future if the employee challenges your decision."
At-will doesn't always mean you're covered
Many states in the United States operate under at-will laws, meaning that an employer or an employee can terminate their employment at any time. However, there are still instances in which an employer may be open to wrongful termination accusations. The Small Business Administration states, "You can't fire employees for complaining about any illegal activity, health and safety violations, or discrimination or harassment in the workplace. These statutes and laws vary by state, so check with a lawyer if, for example, you wish to fire someone who has complained or testified against you in court." These are a few examples of reasons employees may not be eligible for termination even in at-will states.
Be consistent with documentation
In every business, it is important to have an employee handbook detailing the rules and protocols expected of employees. Every new employee should have to read it, and should be able to access a copy when needed. This helps business owners as well, since disciplinary procedures will be known by all. If you have one of these handbooks, it is important that all disciplinary actions be handled consistently to ensure that no employee feels that they are being discriminated against. Having disciplinary procedures in place can also protect you from wrongful termination accusations too, since write-ups are likely to be documented.
Most business owners don't necessarily want to fire their employees, but it can take time to determine that some employees aren't a good fit for the job or the company. By offering employees the chance to improve, and making sure that all disciplinary action is documented, you can be more confident that terminating an employee is the best decision for all, and possibly protect yourself against a lawsuit.
This article was written by Alaina Brandenburger for CBS Small Business Pulse
for more features.