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Illinois business law attorneysGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai is in the news again regarding the termination of a former engineer with the company. Pichai has gone on record saying that he does not regret firing James Damore, the engineer responsible for writing an extremely controversial internal memo regarding the gender gap in technology companies. The memo created a media frenzy in July 2017 after it was leaked to the public by an unconfirmed source. In the memo, Damore criticized Google’s diversity policies as being inefficient and unfair.

Gender Disparity

Many companies—tech companies, in particular—often have an uneven number of men and woman working within the business. On the whole, men have been found to be much more likely than women to work in technology-based occupations such as software engineer or web developer. Google has reported that its staff is around 70 percent male and 30 percent female.

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Illinois business law attorneysFor many business owners, firing an employee is something they hope they will not have to do. Unfortunately, letting employees go is just as much a part of being a business owner as hiring employees is. When an employer fires an employee, he or she must be careful to avoid creating an opportunity for the employee to sue. Employers must make certain that the termination was justified, legitimate, and handled within the law. There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of being sued, but avoiding these common mistakes can help business owners avoid litigation.

Keeping Inadequate Records

Sometimes, employers become overwhelmed with the demanding task of running a business, and they allow some duties to slip. One of these often overlooked responsibilities is record-keeping. For example, employers have the responsibility to track employee hours worked. When keeping track of the hours worked by employees is based on the “honor system” or is inadequately managed, employees can claim that they were not paid for the actual hours they worked.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneyA few weeks ago, a post on this blog explored the challenges in making the decision to terminate an employee who is no longer a good fit for your company. That post highlighted the importance of careful record keeping and rational decision-making so that you could protect yourself in the event of possible legal action. The second and final stage of the termination process, however, is the termination itself, and letting an employee go must be done in such a way that both the rights of the employee and your company are protected.

Meet Face to Face

While it may be uncomfortable for you, your employee deserves the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting in most cases. Try to avoid terminating an employee over the phone, through text message, or even via a letter. There may be some exceptions, such as worker with habitual attendance problems, but an in-person meeting is appropriate far more often than not.

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Illinois business attorneysWhen you employ a staff to help you meet the needs of your customers, sooner or later you will have an employee who fails to live up to your expectations. Perhaps he or she has problems with being on time, complying with your company’s dress code, or is simply not productive enough to warrant what you are paying him or her. But, how can you be sure that firing the employee will not blow up in your face, so to speak? There are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your company from lawsuits and frivolous accusations when you decide to terminate an employee.

The Two Phases

In the movies and on TV, it not uncommon to see a boss fire an employee on the spot for a particularly egregious mistake or outburst. While an immediate firing may be warranted on occasion, most employee terminations occur after an extended decision-making process. Firing an employee, usually, can be broken down into two separate stages—the decision and the termination—and both must be handled properly.

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Arlington Heights business law attorneys, terminating an employeeThere are several aspects to running or managing a business. The act of terminating an employee is one of more difficult and unpleasant. It is also a situation that could potentially put your business at risk for litigation. If you have started a business and need to terminate a problematic employee, the following information can help you stay within the legal guidelines. It can also ensure you know when and where you can find help, should you need it.

Do You Have the Legal Right to Terminate?

Illinois is an “at-will” employment state, which means you do not need to have a reason or cause for terminating an employee. Yet there are some legal pitfalls that you, as an employer, must be aware of. You cannot terminate an employee for reasons that relate to their age, race, religion, or gender. Employers are also prohibited from terminating an employee for taking family leave, military leave, or time off for jury duty. Whistleblowers are also protected by law.

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