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How employers can protect themselves when firing a worker

Texas employers should take steps to ensure that they protect themselves if they need to fire an employee. In fact, these actions can begin long before the termination process and start when people are hired.

Employers should have handbooks that outline all of their policies. New employees should be given this handbook as well as a statement of their responsibilities in writing. Expectations for the employee should be clear. The employee should sign a statement acknowledging receiving and reading these documents, and this statement should be placed in the employee's file.

If the employee's performance becomes a problem, the employer should work with the employee to try and improve it. This should be documented along with any verbal or written warnings. Employers should make sure that they follow all regulations. Pay, including overtime pay, should be correct. Employees can only be fired for performance issues and not because of race, religion or other protected characteristics. Employers should make sure an employee they must fire does not have an outstanding workers' compensation claim. Firing a person in the midst of obtaining workers' compensation could be considered discriminatory.

The act of firing someone should be brief and calm. Employers should collect any property from the person and should not discuss the reasons for the termination with the remaining staff.

Companies that do not have a comprehensive policy in place for documentation and for terminating problem employees may want to consult an attorney about creating one. It is also important that an employee is not terminated while pursuing a complaint of discrimination or harassment at work since that could appear to be retaliation. A company that is facing an accusation of wrongful termination may also want to consult an attorney. The company should be able to demonstrate clear communication with the employee and adequate reason for the termination.

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