How Businesses Can Protect Themselves Against Wrongful Termination Of Employment Lawsuits
Maryland’s at-will employment laws make it possible for employers to terminate the employment of any employee for any reason, unless the employee has a written contract saying that their job is guaranteed to last until a certain date. Most of the time, when an employer terminates an employee’s job, it is either because of misconduct on the employee’s part or because the employer could not afford to keep so many employees on the payroll and had to let some of them go. Deciding which employees to lay off in tough economic times is a heartrending process, and thanks to the new variants of the SARS-COV-2 virus, many employers might have to do it for the second time in two years. If you are in this unenviable position, a Washington DC small business attorney can help you reduce your payroll expenses while also reducing your risk of wrongful termination of employment lawsuits.
What Is Wrongful Termination of Employment?
At-will employment means that the employer can terminate the employee’s job for any reason except discrimination or when the termination violates public policy. Discrimination means terminating an employee’s job (or taking other adverse actions that could lead to termination) because of the employee’s race, gender, age, religion, disability, marital status, pregnancy, or national origin, or because the employee complained about discrimination or requested a reasonable accommodation for their disability or pregnancy. A violation of public policy could include firing an employee because they refused to engage in an illegal act or because they filed a workers’ compensation claim, reported a safety violation, or requested a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.
How to Defend Yourself Against Allegations of Wrongful Termination of Employment
Don’t let it be your word against the employee’s about whether you fired them “just because” or because of discrimination? Was Abigail the weakest link, or did she get fired because she has young children and can’t work late at night? Was Sheila the weakest link, or did she get fired because she is almost 60? Was Kevin the weakest link, or did he get fired because he adopted a child of another race? It’s hard to prove what someone else was thinking when they decided to fire someone, but here are some ways to protect yourself against wrongful termination lawsuits:
- Keep ongoing records of employee performance for all employees. These should contain quantitative and verifiable measures of employment.
- Communicate with employees by email about the termination of their employment, so that you have a record of what you said and didn’t say.
- If you are terminating employees because you can’t afford to keep them, offer separation agreements. A severance package is less expensive than a lawsuit.
Let Us Help You Today
Deciding which employees to lay off can be an emotional and legal minefield, but a business law attorney can help. Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for help today.