As an employer, you have a right to terminate employees that are not a fit for the workplace. Perhaps you don’t like the type of performance you’re getting from a certain employee, or maybe they don’t get along with anyone else in the workplace and they’re making it uncomfortable.
If you do terminate them, however, they may claim that you are retaliating against them for something that they did. They may also claim that retaliation is illegal. Is this true?
Action taken against an employee can only be for legal reasons
This is true that retaliation is sometimes illegal, and it is one of the biggest reasons that employees file lawsuits against their former employers. An employee may view illegal employer retaliation as the reason they lost their job, had their wages cut, missed out on a promotion or other things of this nature. However, employers are still allowed to take corrective or disciplinary action against an employee within the parameters of the law.
The thing to keep in mind is that retaliation is only illegal when there is a specific reason for it that is already protected by law. For instance, if an employee reports that they are being discriminated against because of their race or other protected class, and the employer decides to fire them because of that report, that is illegal retaliation.
On the other hand, if an employee is rude to their boss or does something foolish that results in a major loss to the company, their employer may be entirely justified if they fire that employee in response.
As you can imagine, understanding – and proving – the reasons for employer retaliation requires a nuanced approach. If your company finds itself facing such a lawsuit, be sure you know what legal options you have.