It’s a risky business firing an employee over what happens in their personal lives. Unless you’re careful, it could easily come back to bite you and your business. Even if you want to terminate an employee, here are five risks you’ll want to take into consideration before taking the next step.

Insufficient Evidence

If you don’t have sufficient evidence of what your employee did, it becomes questionable as to why you’re firing them. While many states are at-will states, meaning you can terminate their employment at any time for any reason, there are still a number of stipulations to that. If you don’t have sufficient evidence to prove that you aren’t firing them over something like a protected class, they could have legal grounds to come after you.

Document everything, creating a paper trail. Having documentation of what they did wrong at work is much better than trying to fire them for what they posted on Twitter that had nothing to do with your business or the political activism they get up to when they’re not on the clock.

The Blurred Line

Remember that there is often a blurred line between right and wrong, especially when it comes to what employees do when they’re not at work. Whether they became publicly intoxicated, posted something inflammatory on Facebook, or attended a rally you don’t agree with, be cautious. Unless their behavior goes directly against the code of conduct you have in place (like giving away company secrets), it’s probably not something you can fire them over.

You Need to be Fair

Be fair to all of your employees. If you let one employee stay for behaving a certain way in their personal life, yet fire another person, the employee you fired might find a way to use that against you. Additionally, it sets a double standard for the rest of your employees, and can cause a disruption since they’ll see you playing favorites with the staff.

Make sure you make all staff adhere to the same guidelines, and enforce the same consequences for infringing on those guidelines. Outline expected behavior in your employee handbook, along with policies and procedures, and make sure everyone is aware of how they need to behave.

Employees Can File for Unemployment

Employees you fire can potentially file for unemployment, and if you can’t prove you fired them for a valid reason, you could easily end up legally-bound to pay them unemployment. You’ll have to pay this until they are hired by another company or stop looking for a job. This could add up to thousands of dollars over time.

Employees Can Sue for Wrongful Termination

Unemployment law is complicated. A former employee can choose to sue you for wrongful termination, even if you’re in an at-will state. Employees in high-profile jobs will often sue to save face along with getting compensation for their lost salary. If you end up with a lawsuit on your hands, you’ll have to spend time in court, paying all kind of legal fees from the court to the lawyers.

Regardless of why you’re firing someone, be sure you know the risks. You might even want to get advice from an employment lawyer before making the final decision. By being aware and taking precautions, you can be sure to have the protection you’ll need if your former employee seeks retribution.

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