Overview: Employee terminations are restricted for certain reasons or without proper procedures. While Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act prohibits termination which discriminates against protected classes of workers, state law can be more expansive in creating classes of workers who are eligible for such protections, shielding employees who are not covered by federal law. Similarly, some states have broader restrictions against retaliatory terminations for certain types of protected activities, like filing workers' compensation claims and for blowing the whistle on unlawful or wasteful practices in the workplace.
Federal and state law also requires employers to utilize notification procedures when they plan to lay off large numbers of employees or close an entire facility. The federal WARN Act sets the minimum standard for covered employers, but some states impose even stricter requirements on employers based on the number of employees they plan to discharge.
Employees leave a company for other reasons as well, through retirement and resignations, some of which can be viewed as forced resignations or constructive discharges. Exit interviews and managing the exit process should be handled consistently and in compliance with federal and state law.
Trends: Employers are increasingly gravitating toward severance packages for employees terminated involuntarily in exchange for waivers or releases of claims against the employer. With these systems in place, employers can preemptively eliminate post-termination threats by providing outgoing employees with something of value. Employers must be prudent, however, in ensuring that such termination agreements are enforceable by crafting agreements in easily digestible language, providing valuable consideration in exchange for waivers and fully documenting the exchange.
Author: Michael Jacobson, JD, Legal Editor
In-depth review of the spectrum of New York employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to employment at-will.
In-depth review of the process HR should follow when terminating an employee.
As mandated by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, New Jersey employers must provide the Unemployment Benefits Pamphlet.
As mandated by the New Jersey Department of Labor, New Jersey employers must provide a copy of the New Jersey BC-10 Form.
As mandated by the State of New Jersey, Department of Banking and Insurance, New Jersey employers with covered, eligible employees must distribute a copy of the New Jersey Continuation Coverage Rules form.
As mandated by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, New Jersey employers that have been in business for three or more years and who employ 100 or more full-time employees may be required to distribute this notice to individuals or entities upon a mass layoff, site closure or reduction in force.
Employers seeking to provide employees with an overview of separation from employment, including classification of the types of separation and recommended procedures, should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers seeking to advise employees of their responsibility to return company property when separating employment should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Employers seeking to advise employees of the company's exit process should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Arizona employers seeking to inform employees of their rights under Arizona's Constructive Discharge Law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Guidance for HR on understanding and complying with federal and state law regarding legal and fair employee terminations.