As an employer in Georgia, you know that your company is only as good as its employees. For that reason, you do your best to recruit, hire and retain only the best. However, there may come a time when someone you hire turns out not to be a good fit for your organization, which may lead to the termination of that employee. When this happens, you need to follow the law as closely as possible in order to avoid a wrongful termination claim.
Keep good documentation
The first thing you must do to avoid a wrongful termination suit is to keep excellent documentation. You will want written evidence of anything that the employee did that led to his or her termination. This may include chronic tardiness or absenteeism, failure to meet deadlines and goals, improper actions, or other incidents that led you to your decision to terminate the employee. You should establish a progressive discipline policy that provides for rehabilitation before termination and be sure to include your HR department in all decisions related to the employee.
Discipline must be the same for every staff member. If one employee is written up for doing something that other employees do routinely, you could face a wrongful termination claim. For example, suppose you have an employee who is chronically late, misses deadlines, and handles personal business during business hours. However, other employees who arrive on time and never miss deadlines also conduct personal business during business hours. You can terminate the employee for the missed deadlines and tardiness, but don’t include the fact that he or she conducted personal business on company time in the termination reasoning.
When you deliver the news that someone is being terminated, he or she may act aggressively or emotionally even if you have counseled this person repeatedly about his or her behavior. Be compassionate, and try to end the relationship in a positive way. You may also want to offer a severance package as a symbol of goodwill even if it is only a small amount. Unless absolutely necessary, do not ask security or anyone else to escort the employee from the building in front of colleagues as this could lead to anger and may make it more difficult for you to avoid a wrongful termination suit and the need to engage in employer-side employment law litigation.
Before terminating an employee, even if you believe his or her actions warrant your decision, it is best to discuss your rights with an attorney to be sure you can avoid a wrongful termination suit.