A wrongful termination claim is a massive distraction and a highly costly issue. It is also not something that is within your ability to completely stop. However, by taking four simple steps, you can minimize your risks:
Documentation of all reasons for a firing
Given any firing may come with strong feelings of betrayal – on both sides, often – there may be concerns from the former employee that isn’t on your radar. However, if you closely document the disciplinary actions against an employee, you have taken the first step to defending yourself in the event of a lawsuit. Also, that documentation may serve as a deterrent.
Craft clear, strong employee conduct rules
Employee conduct is an incredibly important part of a functional workplace. Everyone deserves a keen sense of what is and is not acceptable behavior. This way, you can monitor and deal with violations of that workplace contract.
Ban discrimination and harassment
This is much more than coming out against such issues. It’s about creating an environment that is against discrimination practices and harassment of any kind. This will go a long way to proving your good faith decisions around firings.
Watch your timing
Sometimes a firing can just “look bad.” If you had an employee that recently went on leave but also was seriously underperforming, it is prudent to give them some time; likewise, for any other sort of timing, that may seem like retaliation. There must always be a clear case that removing a person had nothing to do with any protected action they had.
However, any action you take can be greatly improved by working with a skilled employment law attorney who understands California’s specific laws.