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Remaining within the law when firing an employee

Minnesota is an at-will employment state, but that does not mean that employers do not have to follow certain procedures to ensure that any termination is handled legally. Prior to firing an employee, it is important for employers to know and follow any state or federal laws to ensure that the employee retains his or her rights, according to the Small Business Association.

There are certain circumstances for which employers are not allowed to fire an employee:

  • Taking family, medical or military leave
  • Whistleblowing, including uncovering safety violations, illegal activity or discrimination
  • The employee's race, gender, disability, religion, age or other areas protected by anti-discrimination laws
  • Missing work for jury duty or to vote in an election

Prior to a termination, it is important for the person in charge of handling it to know the company policy so that it is handled accordingly. Certain rights, such as certain benefits like the Continuation of Health Insurance Coverage (COBRA) and unemployment insurance, must be offered to employees upon termination. There are also laws surrounding the handling of the final paycheck. In Minnesota, companies have at most 20 days to provide the final paycheck but must provide it within 24 hours of an employee requesting it, as discussed in a previous post.

According to Inc., it is beneficial to prepare for the termination ahead of time. Having an independent reviewer as part of the process helps to ensure that the termination is not only justified but also legal and abides by company policy. In many cases, it is best to have a meeting during which the person handling the termination discusses the situation with the employee.

It is beneficial for employers to retain documentation of performance issues that might have led to the terminating of the employee even after the employee has left. This might include poor performance reviews, disciplinary actions, recurring tardiness or other problems. Details of any actions that went against the employee handbook, especially in cases of unacceptable behavior, should be included. This can be used to inform the employee the reason for the termination.

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