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What makes an employee dismissal illegal?

| May 25, 2021 | Employment Law |

Managing a workforce is not always an easy task for employers. They may have to make difficult decisions regarding hiring and firing workers. Sometimes these decisions can be unpopular, and sometimes they can trigger a lawsuit if an employee claims an employer violated their rights.

For instance, a fired employee might accuse an employer of wrongful termination.

Elements of a wrongful termination

Because employment in Minnesota is generally at will, employers may usually fire a worker for any reason. However, there are certain elements that make a dismissal illegal.

Illegal firings can include any that are discriminatory or retaliatory. Some examples include:

  • Firing a worker because of their race, gender, religion, or other protected class;
  • Firing a worker because they took family or medical leave;
  • Firing someone for reporting dangerous working conditions;
  • Firing someone for filing a sexual harassment claim; or
  • Firing someone for refusing to engage in illegal activity

Under these circumstances, a former employee may have grounds to take legal action against an employer.

Avoiding wrongful termination

As an employer, you can shield yourself from these types of allegations. Again, you have the right to fire an employee for any reason, so long as it is not for the reasons discussed above. But people have different perspectives of these situations. An employee may not see things the way you see them, so it can be important to cover your bases.

When dismissing an employee, it is generally a good idea to:

  • Review your employment policies;
  • Have a legitimate reason for letting them go, whether that is poor performance or because they were the last person hired;
  • Prepare any documentation that supports your decision, like performance reviews or complaints against the employee;
  • Be truthful;
  • Be straightforward with the employee; and
  • Be respectful and avoid actions that might embarrass the employee

These measures can reduce or eliminate any confusion or misconceptions about the reason behind your decision. They can also make the situation less painful for both you and the employee.

Employment decisions are not always easy or enjoyable. However, understanding wrongful termination and how to dismiss an employee lawfully can help you avoid costly litigation and hostile accusations.