Terminating employees is rarely a pleasant task. In the non-profit sector, the way you terminate employees can make a difference in helping you avoid a wrongful termination claim.
A wrongful termination means that the employee was terminated for an illegal reason, such as their race or gender, instead of a legal reason, such as their performance.
Make sure you can terminate
Think the termination decision through thoroughly. Check any contractual provisions or your termination policies before deciding to terminate. You must follow any requirements before terminating, such as progressive discipline policies.
Once you have determined that you are at a point that you can terminate, follow all appropriate steps for termination. This includes making sure that the reason for termination is valid. Some employees may have signed contracts that allow them to be terminated only for certain reasons.
Legitimate business reason
Generally, you must have a legitimate business reason for the termination. Make sure that you can provide one if asked.
Additionally, review the employee’s situation and recent events or behavior. For example, did the employee just announce they were pregnant? Did they recently complain about something specific?
If so, this does not mean that you should not go forward with the termination if there is a legitimate reason, but give the specific reason for the termination when you talk with the employee.
Do not use vague language, such as telling the employee that they have been performing poorly or their employment doesn’t seem to be working out. Saying the specific reason may be uncomfortable but reduces their chance of successfully claiming the termination was wrongful.
Have detailed records available, documenting dates, times and events that led to the termination.
Following these guidelines can help your non-profit organization avoid a wrongful termination claim. However, if you find yourself facing litigation, an attorney can help.