- Does your company do business with executives and high-end professionals where contracts and severance packages are a regular occurrence?
- Are you a professional establishing a new HR department for a developing company and need assistance with your hiring process and new hire package?
- Do you work in an existing HR department that needs to revise it new hire employee package?
Let The Rubin Law Corporation help you to organize your employment forms and handbooks and provide you with the proper guidance for outlining contractual agreements with your employees.
Can I terminate an employee “at will” without getting involved in costly litigation?
The general rule in California is that employment is “at-will,” meaning that employees may be terminated for any reason with or without prior notice. The exceptions, however, often swallow the rule. The following are some examples of the myriad exceptions to the “at-will” rule that the employer should be aware of:
- Discrimination and public policy violations – An employee cannot be terminated based on sex, race, national origin, disability or other protected categories. Though this may sound like common sense, violations of this can be as simple as hiring a younger person simply because you want to have a more youthful workforce.
- Retaliation for employee actions – An employee cannot be terminated or punished for exposing a company’s violation of the law or for exercising his or her rights under the law. An example of this would include “whistleblowing” any sort of illegal actions conducted by the company or exercising a legal right, such as voting.
What constitutes a contract with an employee?
Employment contracts may be written or oral, or implied by the conduct of the parties, or some combination of all of these. A contract does not have to be a formal agreement as such. Promises made in e-mails may form a contract, for example.
What is an “implied-in-fact” contract?
An employment contract can be implied in fact when the employee has enjoyed a lengthy tenure at a company and the employer has, over the course of many years, made statements or undertaken acts that suggest the employee will only be terminated for cause. Statements such as “You have a future here” combined with raises, promotions or other incentives are examples of an implied contract and have merit in a court of law if an employee is terminated in contrary to these circumstances.
Employers can prevent this sort of ambiguity by being clear and ethical in their employee handbooks, offer letters, and other dealings with employees. The Rubin Law Corporation can show you how to prevent costly and damaging misunderstandings.
What can we do to prevent wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuits from former employees?
The following is a brief list of simple things you can do to seriously curb the amount of lawsuits brought on by former staff members:
- Educate your staff about discrimination laws – Some employees simply don’t know that it’s wrong to say or do something. Education, particularly in sexual harassment and racial discrimination, is key to keep lawsuits to a minimum.
- Performance reviews – A performance review of an employee is commonly avoided because of its association with giving an employee a raise. However, proper documentation of an employee can also show a decline in performance that can be used to justify a termination in court.
- Follow your own rules – Your employee handbook was written to protect your company from lawsuits by former staff. If there is no sign of deviation from the employee handbook, and the handbook was created in conjunction with an attorney, then you have an extra level of protection.
- Termination checklist – Prior to terminating an employee, review a checklist of items to see if there are any red flags that could evolve into legal issues. This will also help you to be organized and prepared should an employee file a lawsuit after termination.
- Severance/release agreement – A severance or release agreement is a helpful way to provide protection by having a former employee relinquish all potential claims against the company. This agreement is only valid if the employee receives additional income that he or she was not already entitled to and cannot include items related to workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance claims.
You Might Be Interested:
- Contract Law FAQs
- Breach of Contract
- Trade Secrets
- Non-Compete Agreements
- Severance Negotiations
- Non-Disclosure Agreements