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Terminating an Employee

Avoiding a lawsuit after terminating an employee requires careful planning, adherence to legal guidelines, and a commitment to fair and respectful practices.

Avoiding a lawsuit after terminating an employee requires careful planning, adherence to legal guidelines, and a commitment to fair and respectful practices. First, it's crucial to ensure that the termination is well-documented with clear reasons supported by evidence of performance or behavior issues. Thoroughly review the employee's personnel file, performance evaluations, and any prior disciplinary actions. Having a solid paper trail can be a key defense in case of legal challenges. It's also essential to communicate openly and honestly with the employee during the termination process, providing them with a clear understanding of the reasons for their termination and any applicable severance or exit benefits. Severance agreements are an important tool to provide short-term financial relief for a terminated employee while also avoiding litigation. However, these agreements must be carefully crafted to comply with state and federal laws and afford the employee ample opportunity to consider the terms before signing.


A deep understanding of federal, state, and local employment laws is crucial to navigating a termination, especially if the employee is part of a union or has an employment contract with the company. These laws address notice period, final pay requirements and information regarding the continuation of benefits. Employers should consult with legal counsel to ensure that these requirements are met.


Setting aside the legal framework for any termination, maintaining a respectful and compassionate approach is essential. Treat the departing employee with dignity and respect during the termination meeting and offer support or resources to help them transition to new employment if appropriate. Avoid any discriminatory or retaliatory actions and make sure the termination decision is based on non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory factors. Training managers and HR staff in proper termination procedures and promoting consistency across the organization can substantially reduce the risk of lawsuits, and provide strong defenses in the event litigation is inevitable.


Remember that an employee has a right to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a corresponding state agency if they feel that an employment decision was discriminatory or retaliatory. Responding to request for information from government regulators requires careful attention and should only be done with the assistance of counsel. Importantly, such agencies are empowered to investigate an employee’s claim, and to independently bring an action against the employer seeking compensation for the employee and other damages.


Dooley Gembala’s litigation lawyers regularly work with business leaders and HR managers to ensure that labor and employment laws are carefully followed, and that decisions are not based upon unlawful factors. Our approach framed by decades in the trenches minimizes the risk of litigation or governmental investigations and gives our clients the ability to move forward. To learn more about the firm’s services, contact Matt Dooley at or Ryan Gembala at


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