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Tips for firing people without legal ramifications

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Positions of responsibility usually mean plenty of dirty work as well as good clean fun. When you own a company, and are responsible for not only its health and well-being, but for the health and well-being of your family and employees, you can't afford to pay someone to undermine your attempts. Chances are that you'll make a hiring mistake at least once during your glorious reign. It's easy to do so; you only know the person from an interview and from what they've written on their resume; it's easy for some people to be charming for the first five minutes, and horrendous and moronic for the next five years. These are the kind of people you need to fire before they bring all your dreams shattering down like glass, the shards of which pierce the hearts of many. However-times have changed since the days when you could simply say to a horrendous moron, "You're fired," and watch them sulkily gather their things and slam the door on their way out, and breathe a sigh of relief and not see them ever again. These days you're likely to see them happily gather their things, go traipsing and twirling out the door, and-not see-but hear from them again quite soon, through their lawyer.

A good business leader, therefore, is a cautious one; an observant one; an unhurried one; when it comes to employees above all, a good business leader doesn't go through the motions or hurry through the process etc. These days, you've got to hire employees as if they were applying for White House security positions. "You've got big muscles and a gun, welcome aboard" doesn't cut it there, and surface qualifications shouldn't cut it for your business either. You've got to do background checks; i.e., actually call their former employers, learn something useful about them. If you want to fire an employee without legal woes, a good defense is your best offense. If you want to fire an employee without legal woes, (a) hire the kind of employee you won't want to fire later, and (b) since this isn't always possible, give your future fired employee as little wriggle room as possible when it comes to litigation.

Think, for a moment, about the reasons fired employees sue their employers. I almost put reasons in quotation marks, but sometimes, it's true, those reasons are valid, and you've got to be on the lookout for valid reasons as well as invalid ones when safeguarding your hiring process. Fired employees sue for discrimination-their boss fired them because he or she didn't like their hairstyle. Fired employees sue for psychological damage-they were fired in such a way that they became depressed forever. Fired employees sue because they were fired without being given enough warning. Fired employees sue because whatever they were or weren't doing wasn't actually stated in their contract as a fireable offense.

Look closely at any of these examples, and you realize that their potency or impotency depends on your forethought and intelligence. You can protect your business; you can fire an employee without legal woes. Of course, when it comes to hairstyles, dress, and so forth, company policy must be explicitly stated in the contract, and discussed in the interview. Even things such as foul language, and how your company defines it, should be considered. Most of your protection, in fact, lies within the contract. Don't be lazy and allow a potential employee to skim through it (if that) and then sign their name at the bottom. Go through the contract with them, and have a witness present, and procure three signatures-the potential employee's, the witness's, and yours-testifying that the potential employee has read and absorbed the above information.

That accomplished, it's also wise to implement a warning system when it comes to the firing of employees. A three strikes, you're out policy is a tried and true method of firing an employee without legal woes. After one strike, you have them sign, again with a witness, that they've been warned-and so on. A judge would most definitely see that you'd been patient and considerate and fair in the events leading up to the firing. A solid contract and a solid warning system go a long way in protecting businesses from legal woes resultant from firing an employee. Last but not least, keep up on the intricacies of the laws pertaining to this matter yourself; hire a lawyer to teach you; get savvy on today's yes's and no's regarding firing an employee. And get an excellent lawyer, just in case!

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Posted by DF
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