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Are there procedures governing employee firing?

Minnesota is an at-will employment state where a worker may be fired at any time, for any legal or non-discriminatory reason and even without reason unless the termination is governed by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. However, the firing may not violate any state or federal discrimination laws or protected union activities.

Employers should also assure that the decision to fire the worker is consistent with its written employment and disciplinary policies. The employer must be able to document the reasons for the firing.The reasons underlying the firing decision should reflect the information on the employee's performance evaluations and any earlier progressive discipline.

Employers have to consider whether other disciplinary action is warranted. Firing should be consistent with its actions in other similar circumstances or employment disputes.

After consulting with counsel, employers should also follow guidelines during the firing to avoid lawsuits. If treated fairly and equipped with information assisting with a career transition, an employee may be less likely to seek legal advice or file a civil action.

Employers should provide termination notice in private and at a time and location that avoids unnecessary embarrassment or provide grounds for a defamation claim. Information about the grounds for termination may be provided only to those co-workers necessary to carry out the discharge.

Employees have to be told what they did in the past for the company and not receive false hope about any future opportunities. Supervisors, however, should be candid and concise about the reason for the termination. Under Minnesota's Notice of Termination law, job elimination should not be the reason for firing if the employer intends to shift job responsibilities or refill the position.

Minnesotans looking to learn more about this topic may benefit from speaking with an employment-law attorney.

Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, "An employer's guide to employment law issues in Minnesota," accessed Nov. 7, 2014

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