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You walk into your new job, as branch manager of a Dayton store. It does not take you long to see why the store is doing poorly: Some of the employees are not doing their job. You decide to dismiss them.

Stop a minute before you take action, or it could come back to haunt you.

Nothing will ruin your mission to turn the store around faster than a lawsuit for wrongful termination. You can imagine the conversation; the fired employee goes home to his wife, tells her all about how this dumb, young boss from out of town, who knows nothing about running a store has fired him. Supportive wife says, “But honey, you’ve been working at the store for 20 years, you won employee of the month September 1993, it should have been you they put in charge. Let me call that attorney I met, that new boss had no reason to fire you.”

These are some of the things you should do, to minimize the chance of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit:

  • Check the company policy on dismissing people: Most companies will have terminated people’s contracts before. Larger companies with human resource departments will almost certainly have procedures in place to avoid breaking labor laws.
  • Check if there is a company handbook, and if the employee signed it: A well-written employee handbook clarifies the expectations an employee needs to meet. It may also explain to the employee the disciplinary procedures the company uses.
  • Gather evidence from any previous appraisals or warnings: If you find the last two managers already told the employee he needed to improve his contribution, you have a history to back your decision up.

While proper procedures can reduce the likelihood that an employee claims wrongful dismissal, if you do find yourself faced with a claim, find out what legal options are available to you as soon as you can.