Wrongful Dismissal, if Poorly Handled, Can End in Disaster for Both Employer and Employee
Wrongful dismissal of an employee is like wrongly finding an innocent person guilty of a wrongdoing for which the punishment is hanging or the electric chair. Both the finding and the punishment are wrong. These are unjustified.
Some explain this type of termination of employment as "without due process" of the law. This means that the employee is deprived of the protection of the law.
Wikipedia defines "Wrongful dismissal" - called wrongful discharge in some countries - as a situation where:
"an employee's contract of employment has been terminated by the employer in circumstances where the termination breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment, or a statute provision in employment law."
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It is not the same as unfair dismissal. It is totally different from resignation where an employee decide to leave for whatever reason.
In some countries such as the United States, the employment contract must contain a term on "wrongful discharge" in
order for employees to have any right to sue.
Is the wrongful act due to ignorance of the law or a deliberate act by some unethical employers?
As an employer, you may terminate an employee based on:
Each of these has specific rules and procedures. Follow these to avoid any problem related to the termination. If and when not done right, your organization faces the possibility of being sued by the dismissed employees. Seek proper legal advice.
If you have no choice, take the necessary disciplinary action.
You have a stronger position to counter any allegation of wrongful discharge if you have done the following:
- Follow the provisions of your policies and rules,
- Treat employees fairly and in a reasonable manner,
- Act fairly toward your employees at all times,
- Practice good faith in all dealings with your people,
- Abide by the Terms and Conditions of the employment contract,
- Terminate employees with just cause, (if circumstances force you to do so)
Policies and procedures include everything that has something to do with the employment relationship.
Items 2, 3 and 4 are inter-related. Treating employees fairly means following the rules or standards or making judgment without discrimination in anything connected to the termination.
"Just cause" is hard to define but it refers to reasons for termination that are acceptable under the law whether legislated or under common law.
Clearly Communicate Rules and Regulations
In order to avoid any allegation of dismissal that is wrongful, clearly communicate to employees what will happen if and when they fail to follow the rules and regulations, fail to perform their jobs well, or commit a misconduct. Communication is necessary to ensure people have adequate knowledge of all policies, rules and regulations especially those that are relevant to their employment with your organization.
Any occasion for wrongful dismissal is truly a disastrous thing
Plan to do things right from the beginning.
Where the circumstances are such that you cannot avoid taking action against any employee for misbehavior or for failure to carry out their jobs well, take action but do it right.
Take steps to ensure no termination case finds its way to the law courts (industrial courts.)
Also, see to it that you understand all laws applicable to wrongful dismissal. These may differ from country to country. The law may have changed.
Meanwhile, take up a general liability insurance to cover litigation costs in the event the case comes before the law courts.
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