Do you now how many employee lawsuits you could avoid if you knew how to terminate employees legally?

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Answered by: Jean, An Expert in the HR Management: FAQs and Basics Category
According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), the number of employee lawsuits are rising. DOL statistics show in 2011 alone there were 23,465 age discrimination complaints filled, 30,512 in the harassment category and 37,334 in retaliation.

If you don’t know how to terminate employees legally, you could find yourself in one big and costly lawsuit. And, if you’re sued by a current or former employee, these lawsuits can end up costing you big bucks and take up much of your time.Documentation

The most common mistake business owners make today is lack of documentation for bad behaviors. Verbal warnings are hard to prove where a written employee warning offers the unacceptable behavior in black and white along with a supervisor and witness signature and even a place for the employee to sign showing they received the written warning.

If you can prove you’ve documented unacceptable behavior and then terminate the employee for being a repeat offender, the chances of he or she winning in a lawsuit are slim—they may not even be able to find an attorney to take their case.Investigation

Another area where employers fail to terminate employees legally falls in the harassment or workplace bullying categories. Harassment isn’t just sexual harassment anymore. It also covers situations where employees feel intimidated in any way. Beyond that, workplace bullying is becoming a hot HR topic these days.

If you receive a bullying or sexual harassment complaint from any employee, you need to investigate the complaint. Your investigation must be quick, fair and have set procedures if the accused is indeed guilty of the charge.

The best way to do this is to have set policies and procedures in place such as written complaint forms, investigation and witness interview forms and an action plan policy. By documenting findings and being able to prove you did indeed investigate any charges, you can rest assured a lawsuit most likely won’t be filed if you do fire the offending employee.

Today’s Workforce

Another unfair termination area is the result of today’s workplace that are lost in an economy where unemployment rates are higher than ever. Baby boomers are losing their own businesses or find themselves looking for work after being laid off.

When recruiting and interviewing employees, you must ensure you don’t discriminate against a person based on their age. If you ask illegal question such as “How old are you?” or “How close to retirement are you?” a potential employee could file a DOL complaint which will result in a long investigation you don’t need.

Or, if you determine because of the tough economy, you need to downsize, if you only choose employees aged 50 or above, this may cause group dissension and a mega lawsuit, especially if you can’t prove the reason for choosing only those aged 50 or above.

Getting Help

Instead of struggling with how to terminate employees legally, it’s best to seek the advice of a labor law attorney or visit your local Department of Labor. While an attorney can be expensive, their value in helping you fire people the right way may outweigh the expense.

If you utilize your local DOL, make sure to set an appointment where you’ll have ample time to ask all the questions you need on the legalities of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and firing.

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