Must an employer warn an employee prior to termination?

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

No. "At-will" employees, that is, employees without express or implied employment contracts, can be terminated at any time, for any reason, so long as the rationale for termination does not violate other aspects of federal law, such as discrimination against protected classes or retaliation againstemployees for engaging in legally protected activities. However, best practice is to utilize a progressive disciplinary system for all acts of misconduct that are not considered severe. Firing a valuable employee on a whim because he or she showed up late to work one day is not good practice for myriad reasons. Progressive discipline not only engenders respect and appreciation from employees, but it allows an employer to build an evidentiary basis for the termination. This is crucial if the terminated employee were to sue the company for wrongful termination.The stronger the employer's case and the better the documentation, the more likely the employer is to prevail in a legal dispute.