You may not feel surprised to learn that a former employee has filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination. No matter how carefully you followed company policy, employment law and your own sense of fairness, the thought of facing a lawsuit may have you second-guessing yourself as a business owner or manager.
The termination of an employee is certainly one of the most delicate matters you have to deal with in your position. It is not unusual for a terminated employee to feel persecuted or unfairly treated. However, with the right legal assistance and a thorough gathering of the facts, you may find you can successfully defend against the unfounded accusations.
Are you within your rights?
Whether your decision to let the employee go was based on the worker’s poor performance, improper actions or simple economic factors, you are right to feel defensive. It is possible that the employee truly knows you had valid reasons for the termination, but he or she must save face in front of family and friends. Ideally, your employee had fair warning that the job was coming to an end. You may have disciplinary records or re-training memos that support your decision to let the worker go.
Additionally, you have on your side the at-will employment laws of Iowa. At-will means that an employer does not need a reason to fire an employee. However, firing under any of the following circumstances may be a violation of employment law:
- The employee’s contract stipulates conditions for termination, which you failed to honor.
- Because of your past actions toward other employees, your handbook policies or other implied contracts, your fired worker assumed he or she was protected from termination.
- You name specific reasons for firing the employee that the employee can refute as insufficient to warrant termination.
- You terminated the employee for discriminatory reasons, such as sexual orientation, race, religion or another protected status.
- The termination was retaliatory after the employee filed for workers’ compensation, turned whistleblower or other reasons.
If your terminated employee seems to be making moves toward a wrongful termination litigation against you and your company, you may want to begin right away gathering your records and evidence and consulting with a legal counselor. You may find your business becomes caught up in a damaging lawsuit that could have long lasting effects. A skilled Iowa attorney can be a powerful ally during this time.