Must you give employees a reason when you terminate them?

There's no legal requirement saying employers have to provide employees with a written statement--or even a verbal one--setting forth the reasons for their termination (unless you have an employment contract that calls for it).

But as decades of lawsuits have shown, failing to give a legitimate, business-based reason often leaves room for the employee to assume the firing reason was inappropriate or unlawful.

Whether you tell the employee the reason or not, it's essential that you still document your discipline and terminations reasoning at the time you make those decisions (not after the employee sues). Such documentation gives you a contemporaneous record of the discipline or termination decision, which can be used to defend claims for unemployment benefits, discrimination, wrongful discharge or similar claims.

Recent case: Ida, who has several medical problems, took a lengthy medical leave. When she returned, she earned several write-ups for poor, late and incomplete work. She was warned...

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