23 Sep 2020

How to Fire Troublemaking Employees Without Liability

Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to let go of an employee. Often, employees do not take this news well, as they might take pride in their career or wonder how they will feed their family without their paycheck. 

Sometimes this can lead the fired employee to take legal action against the company. Fortunately, you can take a few steps to let an employee go without being set up for any legal troubles.

Document Employee Behavior 

If an employee is not behaving appropriately or is not performing well, document all instances of unsatisfactory work performance or inappropriate behavior. One claim the employee might try to hold a company liable for is if they were terminated without just cause. If you can prove a pattern of poor performance or inappropriate behavior, it will be easier to demonstrate the reason for terminating a troublesome employee.

Here is a list of some of the things you can document to show poor behavior:

  • Time spent surfing the internet.
  • Inappropriate use of the email
  • Not working enough hours (repeated late arrivals or early departures)

Metrics to track performance

In addition to behavior, you can use metrics to track performance. Come up with performance review plans for all employees, and encourage them to commit to tangible metrics. For example, a salesman needs to sell a certain number of items, or a project manager cannot go over budget or be behind schedule. If an employee repeatedly misses the mark on his performance metrics, that can be justification to terminate an employee for unsatisfactory performance. 

Consider Formal Lay-offs

If you are laying off a bunch of people at one time, it can be under the guise of corporate lay-offs. Corporate downsizings mean you will be laying off people of all skill levels, races, sexes, etc. It is a lot harder for one person to sue for legal reasons or discrimination if they were one person of a team of many that got laid off. Consult with your legal team for the laws behind doing lay-offs, as some states require you to issue notice ahead of time when you are laying off a bunch of employees at one time.

Lay-off or Firing?

It can also make a difference to the employee if he is laid off or fired. If he is fired for a just cause, he might not be eligible for unemployment benefits. While paying unemployment to an employee might cost the company money, it could help prevent an expensive lawsuit. If possible, consider laying off the employee and ensure he will be eligible for unemployment benefits. Paying unemployment benefits could soften the blow for him and be the difference between filing a lawsuit.


Firing an employee is never easy. While this is business, and money and profits are at stake, we all need to remember that employees are people. A job can be a large part of who someone is. Firing an employee will take an emotional and mental toll on that individual and take away his paycheck, which could be catastrophic to him and his family. That said, show compassion when laying off an employee.

If at all possible, give a list of detailed reasons you are letting him go. For example, you need to sell 100 parachutes this year, and you only sold 5. Or, you were abusing the internet at work (and cite how much time the employee spent online). Have factual evidence, be compassionate, and hope for the best.

About Us

Connexis Search Group is a twenty-year-old permanent placement recruiting firm that serves the following industries: Commercial Laboratory, In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVD), Life Sciences, Biotechnology, and Medical Devices. Our team of over twenty recruiters has industry and functional expertise enabling us to deliver quality candidates in a timely fashion. We are grateful for the success we have enjoyed in helping our clients grow their businesses with the best and most qualified candidates.


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