Employers in Oklahoma and throughout the country can typically fire at will. This means that you do not have to have a reason to let one of your employees go. You just can’t break the law in doing so, meaning you can’t terminate employment for an illegal reason. There are several ways to avoid being a defendant in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The court might not rule in your favor if you have tried to force an employee to do something illegal, then fired him or her for refusing. You also might not achieve a positive outcome in court if you have discriminated against a worker from a protected class or fired someone for reporting fraud. These issues constitute illegal reasons for terminating employment.
Keep these tips in mind to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit
Wrongfully terminating an employee can cost your business a lot of money. The following list includes ways to prevent lawsuits:
- Make sure the terminology in your new-hire contracts clearly states that you may lawfully terminate employment at will for any reason that is not illegal.
- Do not imply job security in conversations with employees and train your managers to avoid promising continued work to people.
- It is better to build a case and to document all prior disciplinary actions against a worker before terminating his or her employment.
- Always act in good faith as the employer and never try to pull stunts like U.S. Bank allegedly attempted, which was firing a long-time executive to avoid paying his annual bonus.
- Enforce a “no retaliation” policy in your company, and never allow managers or other executives to create a hostile work environment that pushes a worker to quit; in legal terms, this falls under the wrongful termination category.
Make sure you comply with all Oklahoma employment laws and public policies that govern such issues. A wrongful termination lawsuit must be credible, which means the plaintiff must be able to show evidence that substantiates the claim. If you’re doing all you’re supposed to do as an employer, you’ll have a good chance of obtaining a positive outcome if a former employee takes you to court.
4 categories of wrongful termination
Most wrongful termination complaints pertain to these four categories:
- Breach of contract
- Breach of implied contract
- Conflict with public policies
- State or federal employment law violations
If someone files a wrongful termination lawsuit against you, review the formal complaint, then launch a full and thorough investigation. It is also wise to secure legal support as early in the process as possible.