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Termination Basics

Whether your small business employs one part-time assistant or a workforce of 20, following is some basic information on terminating the employer-employee relationship.

"At Will" Employment"

Under the "at-will" employment doctrine, either the employee or the employer can terminate employment at any time, for any reason except those involving illegal discriminatory action. For example, a small business may fire an employee based on poor performance, or even as a cost-cutting measure, but the employee may not be fired because of a pregnancy.

Special Protections

Many states have enacted legislation protecting workers under certain circumstances, such as those serving jury duty, military service or reporting employer misconduct.

What If an Employee is Under Contract?

Contract employees are not considered at will workers, and the terms of termination are usually detailed within the contract.

Firing Justification

If employment security for a defined period has been implied or expressed, proper justification is needed to terminate the employee. Without a solid legal argument, the employer may be the target of a lawsuit.

What is "Just Cause" for Termination?

Examples of just cause for termination may be neglect of duty, dishonesty or unfaithfulness, misusing trade secrets and theft.

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