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Employers can lower their risk for wrongful termination suits

Businesses enjoy many benefits through Texas’s use of employment at will policy. This means that (absent of an agreement or statute that outlines terms and conditions of the employment), either the employer or the employee can legally terminate the business relationship. It can be for any reason or no reason at all and done without or with notice.

Nevertheless, it is always wise to tread carefully when terminating an employee. Doing so can help avoid claims of wrongful termination.

Defining “wrongful”

While workers enjoy certain legal rights at the state and federal levels, violating an individual’s employment contract could be a problem. Companies cannot terminate employment for the following:

  • Discrimination based on race, religious preference and all other civil rights protections under OSHA or Title VII
  • Terminating a whistleblower
  • Refusing to work in unsafe conditions outside the scope of the job description
  • Violating the conditions of the employment contract

Documentation is essential

Eyewitnesses often see the same event and recall details differently, so it is not surprising that employers and employees will have differing opinions on the termination. It is essential company policy for employers to keep accurate records of everything related to the employees’ jobs and performance. Doing so provides clear evidence that the employers’ grounds were legal. Examples include:

  • An employee handbook that outlines the job, performance expectations and conditions of employment
  • Records of complaints from coworkers or customers
  • A history of poor performance reviews
  • Emails, voicemails or other documentation that details conflicts with management or coworkers
  • Details employee misconduct

Evidence may not be enough

Companies may want legal counsel to review all evidence before moving forward with termination, mainly if there is a likelihood of a dispute. First reviewing the situation can avoid mistakes and help minimize the fallout when the circumstances are complicated.