Discipline and discharge: 2 don'ts and 2 do's to lessen legal liability.

PositionCompliance Corner

In a perfect world, employers would never have to discipline or fire their employees, and HR professionals could make decisions without the input of attorneys.

Unfortunately, the real world is not perfect. Employers are often faced with the unpleasant task of disciplining or terminating employees.

Missteps can lead to costly litigation down the road. Abide by these principles to minimize your legal liability:

X DON'T discriminate. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers may not discipline or terminate employees due to their membership in a protected class, such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, disability, age (for those 40 and older) and genetic information.

Many states and municipalities have their own anti-discrimination laws as well.

[check] DO recognize disability. In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with qualifying disabilities.

Employers and disabled employees must engage in an interactive process to discuss potential options for accommodations.

X DON'T retaliate. Employers may not retaliate against employees who engage in lawfully protected activities, including asserting their rights under an anti-discrimination statute, assisting in the investigation of alleged discrimination or participating in legal proceedings relating to such allegations.

Other statutes feature anti-retaliation provisions, too, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the FMLA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the National Labor Relations Act.

In addition, whistleblower protection laws safeguard employees against retaliation for exposing an employer's unlawful activities.

[check] DO document. It is in an employer's best interests to have meticulous documentation showing why it disciplined or terminated an...

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