How Employers Handle The Termination Of Employees When surrounded By Tough California Employment Laws

It probably goes without saying that as an employer, the employees that are doing your business more harm than good are the ones that are more than likely to turn around and file a lawsuit against you. We live in a 'litigation nation' and the tough California employment law does make it easy for employees to sue their employers should they feel aggrieved in any way. So with this in mind, how should an employer handle employment termination? Let's find out!

Firing for the right reasons

As an employer it is important to make sure that you are looking to terminate the services of an employee because of their failings at work and not because of any other reason. Even though in California, 'at will' employment means that you don't have to state a reason, terminating someone when they are in a protected group without a substantial reason is suicide in terms of California employment law. So a legitimate reason is crucial.

Documentation is key

However tedious this may be, when it comes to termination, it is important to document everything. Write down any situations where discipline was called for, also document dates, times, details of the offense etc, and actions taken to correct the problem. By writing everything down, at least you have evidence as backup should the employee look to sue.


It is really important to keep lines of communication open between you and the employee. Tell them the reasons for taking disciplinary action and why you have chosen to go down this road. Give them chance to air their side of the story. Make it clear that you are giving them a final opportunity and are looking to them to change their ways. Again document all conversations and ask the employee to sign a copy for your records. In some cases they will refuse to sign. In this instance, state on the documentation that the employee refused to sign and put the time and date.

Three strikes rule

If the said employee still fails to change their ways and continues to have issues or cause problems for your business, then as long as you have first gone through the proper disciplinary procedures that your company has, then you are entitled to terminate their employment. In order to do this, the best thing to do is to draft up an employment termination letter and go through it with the employee. State the reasons why you are firing them and also go through what they are entitled to, benefit wise (if applicable). Try to keep the exit interview brief and on point, and avoid saying anything which may hold against you should the employee decide to sue for wrongful termination.

If you have carried out all of the above procedures and have terminated their employment correctly and by the book, then even under the wrath of the California employment laws, it can be done. Problems generally occur when an employer doesn't keep lines of communication open with the employee, doesn't go through all the correct disciplinary channels prior to the termination and doesn't keep any documented records of dates, times and conversations. In this case the employer is setting themselves up for a fall.

Whether you are an employee who believes that you have wrongly been terminated, or you are an employer looking for advice on the best way to handle a troublesome employee, then a highly skilled employment lawyer can offer advice and point you in the right direction. Most will have a free, no obligation consultation period where a person can speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney and from this can get any questions answered that they might need. It is also a chance for the attorney to assess as to whether you have a case to answer and as a result can offer representation, if the potential client wishes it. In reality California employment laws can be very complex and anyone not adhering to them can land themselves in a lot of trouble. So as an employer make sure that you understand them, or get advice from someone who does, and you shouldn't go far wrong.