The Chicago Employment Law Blog

7 Legal Reasons to Fire An Employee

The question of whether or not to fire an employee is a daunting predicament for employers. To make the decision simpler (or less complicated), employers should find out whether the law is on their side.

Here are seven legal reasons to fire an employee:

  1. The employee does more harm than good. When employees "create more problems than they're worth," it may be time to give them the axe, a management consultant suggested to Inc. Even if you typically can fire an at-will employee -- in most cases without just cause -- be careful about firing a Good Samaritan or any other employee when doing so can trigger a public relations disaster.
  2. The employee is unable or unwilling to do the job. You are typically within your legal rights to fire an employee who fails to perform his or her job to your satisfaction. If you're confident that you provided sufficient training and tools to your employee but he or she still continues to struggle with performing the tasks, it may be time to cut him or her loose.
  3. The employee is a big fat liar. Employees can be fired for lying or padding their resumes. For example, if an employee claims he or she has cutting-edge PowerPoint skills but in reality can barely grasp clunky ClipArt, it may be time to "zoom in" on the termination option.
  4. The employee is unfocused or barely around. In general, it's fine for employers to terminate absent or flaky employees. But before taking any action, check your time-off policies and how many days you offer for vacation and sick time. Also, make sure the employee's absence isn't because of FMLA leave or similar state medical leave.
  5. The employee is on the hunt for a lawsuit. Never retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her legal rights. But if you notice an employee trying to drum up grounds for a lawsuit, you may want to have a chat with your HR department.
  6. The employee is harming the company's reputation. Though the law on this matter is still evolving, it's generally OK for employers to fire employees for trashing their bosses or others on social media. That being said, don't suppress social media speech on protected issues such as working conditions and pay.
  7. The employee engaged in inappropriate conduct. Your employment contract should outline types of acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior. From sexual harassment to racial slurs, your company policy can give you a clear bases for firing a non-compliant employee.

If you're still unsure about your grounds for termination, consider consulting an employment law attorney to sort out your particular legal angle.

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