What is a wrongful termination claim?

A wrongful termination claim is generally filed by an employee who feels that he or she was fired for an inappropriate or illegal reason. An employee may claim wrongful termination for reasons such as:

  • Violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws;
  • Violation of a written or oral employment agreement;
  • Violation of labor laws;
  • Firing as a form of harassment;
  • Firing in retaliation to an employee’s complaint or claim against his/her employer

In order to avoid a potential lawsuit, employers must prove that the employee’s termination was rightful and warranted. Read on to see the 5 ways employers can avoid wrongful termination claims from an employee.

Facing a wrongful termination claim

Owners of small businesses understandably dread the possibility of a wrongful termination lawsuit. At some point, it is likely you as a business owner will need to terminate an employee, whether due to performance or downsizing. There is always going to be some concern that the employee will file a wrongful termination claim in the aftermath of the firing.

5 ways to avoid wrongful termination claims from an employee

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your business from wrongful termination claims. Here are a few best practices to help you make your business lawsuit-proof:

  1. Document everything as thoroughly as possible:

    You should consistently document the performance of all of your employees, and provide regular performance appraisals. As a rule, you should be open and frank in your discussions with employees about performance so they have sufficient warning if they need to improve their performance and so they know their work is appreciated when you give positive appraisals.
  2. Have employee termination guidelines in place:

    Your company should have written guidelines in place that outline the exact processes you will follow when terminating employees or eliminating positions.

    These policies and guidelines should be described in your employee handbooks, and you should consistently follow these guidelines across your entire business. If you do not have an employee handbook for your workplace, consult with your employment law attorney as soon as possible.
  3. Review every decision carefully:

    If possible, have an HR leader or other manager review the action before you follow through with the termination. If you are the sole person in charge of these types of adverse employment decisions, it can be helpful to consult with your business attorney to make sure you follow the law and do not take an unintended adverse action against a member of a protected class.
  4. Make sure employees know their expectations:

    The decision to terminate an employee should not come as a major surprise to that employee. Through regular appraisals and through clear job expectations, you can create a system in which the employee is able to effectively measure his or her performance.

    You should also be very clear and transparent with the employee about why they were terminated. If the issue was job performance, make sure you have documentation to back up your reasons. If the cause was downsizing, make sure you can explain why that employee’s position was selected to be cut.
  5. Provide advance warning:

    Whenever possible, you should give an employee who will be terminated at least a couple weeks of notice. This allows him or her to begin a job search.

    The sooner an employee is able to secure a new job or at least get the sense that their future employment prospects are positive, the lower chance there is of the employee filing an employment claim against you.

While there are no foolproof ways to prevent an employee from filing a claim against you, these steps will certainly help your case and show that you are a responsible and prepared business owner.

What should I do if I receive a wrongful termination claim?

To see how you can avoid or defend against wrongful termination lawsuits, contact Amity Law Group’s experienced employment law attorneys at (626) 307-2800 or click the button below. We speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese.


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