Although most employment in Iowa is the at-will variety, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful when making related decisions. If you terminate someone in a manner that violates state or federal law, it could result in a costly lawsuit against the business. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that your company can take to minimize the risk of running afoul of applicable employment statutes.
Keep records of everything
Defending against a wrongful termination suit is much easier when you can provide a legitimate reason for letting a worker go. For example, you might be able to counter a claim of gender discrimination with the fact that the employee in question was let go for being late to work 12 times in the last month. You may also have an easier time mounting an employment law defense by keeping copies of poor performance reviews or customer complaints made against the plaintiff.
Think about the optics
It may be difficult to justify terminating an employee days or weeks after coming back from FMLA leave. The same may be true if you are trying to terminate one of the few racial minorities in your organization. Although you may have cause to let that person go, courts will consider timing and patterns when evaluating wrongful termination claims.
It is illegal to terminate an employee for pointing out inappropriate conduct in the workplace. For example, you cannot terminate someone simply because that employee made a claim of workplace harassment or complained about an unsafe working environment. Ideally, your organization will have a formal discrimination and harassment policy that will outline the steps to take after an employee brings an issue to your attention.
Wrongful termination lawsuits have the potential to cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, your business has a strong incentive to create policies that ensure equal treatment for all of its workers. Your company may also want to invest in digital tools that allow it to document employee discipline and other information that might be important in a given situation.