Request a Consultation
Offering Phone, Video, and In-Person Consultations 608-784-8310

What is the Legal Way to Terminate an Employee in Wisconsin?

As an employer, you know that not every person you hire will be a great employee. While you want everyone to succeed, there are times when you must terminate an employee. When you fire someone, you need to know that you are doing so within your legal rights and that you are not doing anything wrong. If you do something illegal, you could end up with a lawsuit. It is best to know the legal way to terminate an employee in Wisconsin. While this is a general outline, you will want to seek legal guidance from an employment lawyer in Wisconsin before you make any termination decisions.

Wisconsin is an “Employment at Will” State

Wisconsin has adopted the “employment at will” doctrine. This means that generally, employment can be terminated by either the employee or the employer at any time. It is important to know that the law is in place only when there is no other document or agreement in place. If there is another agreement in place, that takes precedence. Before you terminate an employee, you must make sure that you follow the terms of any employment contract that may be in place. This includes any contractual obligations when it comes to union workers. While you may want to fire someone, you must also consider the potential consequences if you do so in a manner that is not in compliance with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Prevent Wrongful Terminations

If you improperly fire someone, you could face problems that include investigation and legal consequences. Defending wrongful terminations takes time, effort, and financial resources. You will want to avoid wrongfully firing someone whenever possible. Even employees who are working “at will” are protected from discriminatory firings. You cannot fire someone based on their race, gender, age, nationality, religion, genetics, or disability. You must not discriminate against someone by firing them. Therefore, it is best to document any problems or issues with an employee before you terminate someone. While you are allowed to fire someone for any reason, or no reason at all, you will need to take care to protect employees’ civil rights.

Limit Your Liability

It is helpful to note that the EEOC rules generally apply to businesses that have 15 or more employees. However, an employee may still file a lawsuit against your company if they were wrongfully terminated. You can limit your liability by making sure that you follow all the laws and rules that apply to your business. In some cases, although you do not have a contract with an employee, your company’s rules or handbook may be considered a legal guide for employment. For example, if you have rules in place that provide for an employee to have a written warning before they are fired, you may be required to abide by this rule. Seek legal guidance when drafting employee materials and contracts. Make sure that you have your attorney review the details of a firing before you take action. Take out an employment practices liability insurance policy to cover expenses should a former employee sue you for illegal termination.

Get the legal help you need for your business to make sure that you properly hire and fire employees. Contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today at (608) 784-8310 or by email to discuss your needs today.

Published January 24, 2022
Contact MSM Online Bill Pay