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Prevent Wrongful Dismissal Charges When You Have to Fire an Employee

by HR Coach on April 8, 2009

As an employer you may hesitate to take action for fear of having that employee bring wrongful dismissal charges against your company.

Firing a person is one of the most difficult tasks an employer faces. I’ve only been involved in firing an employee once and I was definitely out of my comfort zone!

Sometimes grounds for termination seem very clear cut – for example, an employee is caught stealing property (physical or intellectual) and is fired on the spot. Most times an employer is looking at a series of problems, over time, that seem to build up into an insurmountable issue.

What is Wrongful Dismissal?

An employer is guilty of wrongful dismissal when they fire a someone without adequate reason or without just cause.  When terminating an employee, an employer is required to give reasonable notice, or severance pay in lieu of notice. This is prescribed by the Canadian Employment Standards, but in some cases the courts may award much higher severance payments, known as ‘damages’.

There are four simple actions you can take to lessen that risk:

  1. Put appropriate severance policies in place before you need them.
  2. Document every employee’s performance on a regular basis. If documentation is kept only to prove one employee’s poor performance, there may be grounds for accusations of discrimination.
  3. Documentation must be made as unacceptable occurrences happen. It cannot be reconstructed weeks or months after the fact.
  4. You must be able to show that corrective actions were taken and that the person was aware of the problems. Keep records of meetings with the employee and what actions were taken to solve the issues. Have the person sign the documents indicating they understand the problem and the suggested solution. Date the documents and keep them in the employee’s file.

Armed with the documentation and policies to back you up, an employee would be hard pressed to win a “wrongful dismissal’ case against you.

Your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments section below!

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