Overview: The vast majority of employee terminations are terminations for cause, stemming from poor performance, attendance or relations with fellow employees. While employers are not always required to provide evidence substantiating a decision to terminate an employee, best practice is to prepare for such terminations as though such evidence will be required.
HR professionals and supervisors can help reduce employer risks by being proactive before termination for cause. They should speak with problematic employees to address issues that affect their performance in the workplace, conduct candid and thorough performance evaluations, encourage employees to participate in performance management plans and otherwise warn or discipline problematic employees before the final step of termination is required. And throughout this process, HR professionals and supervisors should document all of their dealings with problematic employees, in factual detail, to prepare for litigation.
Trends: Most states protect employees who are retained by specific written or verbal contract from termination without cause, even if the contract does not include such a provision. However, some states require higher levels of proof to substantiate cause than others. In Tennessee, for example, employers bear the burden of proof to establish that good cause for termination is related to the job itself, as opposed to some extraneous influence.
Montana, on the other hand, presumes that all employees are protected by just-cause termination requirements, even if they are not retained by written or verbal contract. This makes Montana the major exception to the employment at-will doctrine.
Author: Michael Jacobson, JD, Legal Editor
The McDonald's Corporation board of directors fired the company's CEO after concluding that he had violated a company policy prohibiting managers from engaging in relationships with employees.
Updated to reflect amendments to the mass layoff requirements, effective September 19, 2019.
Updated to reflect amendments to New York City Human Rights Law, effective May 20, 2019.
Updated to reflect termination provisions in forthcoming amendments to law regarding restrictive covenants.
Updated to reflect layoff provisions in forthcoming law regarding noncompete requirements.
Updated to include information on Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. ex rel. Hunt, a Supreme Court case that addresses whistleblower protections.
Enhanced to improve the comprehensiveness, organization and scope of coverage.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Ohio employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to involuntary terminations.
Updated to include information on a state Supreme Judicial Court case regarding awards under the state WARN Act.
Updated to include state WARN act, effective January 7, 2019.
HR and legal considerations regarding termination for cause. Guidance on handling these terminations in a way that minimizes risk and liability.