At some point, most businesses must let some employees go. There are certain things that employers can and cannot do when they are terminating an employee. By understanding the employee termination process, you can better protect yourself if you are at risk of termination. The employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to help you if you are terminated illegally.
The primary types of termination
There are three primary ways that employers go about terminating an employee, including at-will termination, downsizing and for-cause termination. At-will termination involves a termination without cause. Most employees are at-will workers. in at-will termination states, employers may fire you for any reason at any time, and you may leave your job at any time and for any reason. There are certain prohibited reasons that employers may not base their termination decisions on, however. Employers are prohibited from firing workers based on their membership in certain protected classes.
If you are terminated for cause, this means that your employer has a reason to end your employment. This might including consistent tardiness or other problematic behaviors. People who have employee contracts may sometimes only be fired if their employers have grounds to fire them. Employers who use employee contracts must provide valid reasons for terminating an employee who is protected by a contract.
Downsizing includes layoffs and other similar situations that may lead an employer to terminate multiple employees in order to protect the business. When there is a downturn in the economy, businesses may go through multiple rounds of layoffs in order to reduce their costs.
What to expect during the employee termination process
Employers who fire employees must follow the guidelines they have established in their employee handbooks. If they do not have specific termination procedures outlined, the termination process may vary depending on what has happened.
You may receive a notice of termination from your employer. Sending these types of letters help businesses to protect themselves if your termination is later scrutinized. Most termination letters include a brief listing of the reason or reasons for the termination along with instructions for the return of property. Employers are not required to give written termination notices. You may instead be called into your boss’s office to talk about it. You can ask questions about the company’s reasoning or ask to have a third-party witness present.
Some businesses may have a manager or security officer escort a fired employee off of the business’s property. This type of policy is meant to protect the business and not as a reflection on your character. Your company may ask you to complete an exit interview at which you and your employer will be able to talk about the reasons for your termination.
The employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler advise you to take care when you are answering questions during an exit interview, whether it is oral or by questionnaire, about your feelings regarding your job and the termination. If you don’t want to answer a question, politely refuse.
Can employees be fired on the spot?
On-the-spot firings may happen immediately after an employee makes a mistake or engages in unacceptable behavior. They are not illegal unless they are contractually prohibited or are performed in a manner that violates your civil rights.
When is a termination wrongful?
When an employer fires you for a reason that is not legal, a wrongful termination has occurred. There are several types of wrongful termination:
- Termination that is discriminatory
There are some classes that are protected under federal employment laws as well as the state laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If your employer fired you because of your race, religion, disability, pregnancy status, gender, national origin or other protected class, you may have been wrongfully terminated. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might help you to recover damages if you have been terminated based on an illegally discriminatory reason.
- Retaliatory termination
If you are fired because you reported illegal activities or joined a union, your termination may be wrongful. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report illegal behavior to government agencies. Employees who do this are called whistleblowers, and there are a number of whistleblower protection laws that protect employees who do engage in whistleblowing. Employers may face substantial penalties when they retaliate against whistleblowers.
- Termination in breach of contract
If a person is terminated in breach of an employment contract, it may be a wrongful termination. It is not as common as the other types of wrongful termination, however. If you have a contract, you will want to make certain that you understand it to know what your rights under it are. If you believe that you may have been the victim of a wrongful termination, schedule an appointment with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler today.