Generally, employment termination is the day-to-day HR decision with the highest litigation risk.
When a terminated nonunion employee consults a lawyer knowledgeable in employment law, the employee may be surprised to learn to what extent the doctrine of employment at will limits his or her ability to pursue legal action.
But the lawyer nonetheless has a number of possible approaches to litigation to explore with the client. More often than not, the employee is within at least one class protected against discrimination, and there are other “wrongful discharge” or “wrongful termination” possibilities as well.
Although the law does not require that discharge of an at will employee be for a good or fair reason, often the best defense to a discrimination or wrongful discharge claim is evidence that there was such a reason. The same is true of a claim that discharge was wrongful because it was in retaliation for some protected activity, or some type of “whistle-blowing.” Careful consideration and documentation of reasons for termination is therefore always recommended.
Reductions in Force
Reductions in Force (RIF) present some unique challenges. Selection of employees for layoff is frequently challenged as discriminatory. Under some circumstances, legal requirements of advance notice must be satisfied.
Achieving the important cost-saving objectives of a RIF while minimizing litigation exposure and maintaining productivity and morale requires careful planning and decisionmaking.
How We Can Help
The attorneys of Harris Dowell Fisher & Harris, L.C., have extensive experience representing employers in wrongful discharge and discriminatory discharge litigation. We also routinely advise employers on termination of employees and RIF situations, assisting our clients in carrying out these actions in a manner designed to minimize legal exposure.
Contact us to discuss how we may best assist you in this regard.