As a business owner, you make every effort to hire well, because your people are your key to success. Every once in awhile, though, someone turns out to be a hindrance rather than an asset to your business. As you proceed through the disciplinary and termination process, keep in mind these points to stay within the law and to protect your small business.
Fire an employee legally:
Ensure your “at-will” employment status
Your new-hire contracts and agreements should include wording that outlines employees’ “at-will” employment status. In Colorado, for example, you have the right to terminate an employee without prior notice, however, there are several key exceptions to that rule (see below).
Avoid illegal terminations
While you are most likely classified as an at-will employer, there are several instances when it is illegal to fire an employee. In Colorado, those include: discrimination based on “disability, race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, national origin and ancestry”; firing whistleblowers who have registered complaints about illegal activity or harassment at your organization; terminating an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim; and firing for taking time off work for jury duty.
If you have a written termination policy, then that policy must be followed the same way for each employee. If your business includes union employees or independent contractors, consult the associated contracts and agreements and follow the procedure outlined there.
It is in your best interest to document an employee’s history of negligence, poor performance and any disciplinary action leading up to a termination. This documentation helps protect your business legally.
If you have any questions or concerns about disciplinary or termination procedures in your small business, contact EmergeCounsel. We can help you draft your new-hire agreements, termination procedures, independent contractor agreements and more.