Wrongful termination lawyer
The Lipp Law Firm, founded by attorney Katie Lipp, was established in 2019 and has locations in Reston, Virginia, Fairfax, Virginia, and Washington DC. Our attorneys focus on two fundamental areas of law: business and employment.
No matter where you are in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area, we can set up a meeting with you for a consultation. Our firm has attorneys licensed in all three states and meet clients in Tysons, Arlington, Chevy Chase, MD, Dulles, Dupont Circle, Metro Center, DC, and Midtown, DC.
Our extensive experience in employment termination matters allows us to provide in-depth guidance on severance agreements and negotiations. The Lipp Law team is here to help regardless of your legal employment issue. READ MORE About Lipp Law Here
What Is Termination of Employment?
Termination of employment is the end of an employee working with a company. The termination can be voluntary or involuntary.
- Voluntary termination is when an employee resigns from their job. This might be because they found a better job, or their spouse found a new job in a new location, or retirement.
- Involuntary termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for various reasons, including poor performance, inappropriate behavior, or company layoffs.
Since Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia all adhere to the principle of at-will employment, an employer can terminate the employment relationship for any or no reason, provided it is lawful, and at any time, with or without notice. However, there are exceptions to at-will-employment, including:
- Discrimination – state and federal laws prevent employees from getting fired based on protected classes, such as age, gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, marital status, disability, veteran or servicemember status, or national origin, among other protected classes.
- Family or medical leave – according to the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain eligible employees are entitled to job-protected leave taken for medical reasons or to care for family members. However, the employee should adhere to the outlined legal procedures.
- Retaliation for an act protected under law like reporting criminal activity.
- Violating public policy – firing an employee for jury duty or refusing to comply to illegal actions.
Is Notice of Termination Required?
Unless there is a contract between the employer and employee stating otherwise, employers are not required to give employees notice of termination. Time to collect benefits and courtesy is often the reason companies give notice.
Similarly, notice of resignation is considered a professional courtesy, but isn’t required, unless an employment contract states otherwise. Most employees do not have employment contracts, but many executives do.
Are Fired Employees Entitled to Some Type of Severance Package?
Severance pay is not a guarantee for employees and is rarely granted to contractors. Sometimes, larger companies may offer severance for an employment separation, but it’s not required and ultimately is up to the company’s discretion.
Many larger employers have defined severance plans that give a certain number of weeks of severance to terminated employees, usually in the event of a layoff, reduction in force, office closures, or to provide an early retirement package.
There are several reasons why an employer might choose to offer a severance package after involuntary termination. First, it can help reduce legal risks for the company. Employees who sign a waiver of claims as part of their severance agreement agree not to sue the company for any employment-related claims. Some claims are not legally waivable, but an employee can waive damages they would receive from a lawsuit or administrative filing.
A claims waiver can be a big relief for the employer and can help them avoid costly litigation. Additionally, a severance package provides the employee with a financial cushion as they transition to new employment. Read more about severance requirements here
Severance payments can affect an employee’s unemployment benefits. Generally, an employee could qualify for unemployment benefits if they lost their job through no fault of their own (there was no willful misconduct) and did not voluntarily resign. However, the unemployment office will usually ask an employee whether they received severance and can take severance payments into consideration when determining how much to pay an employee in unemployment compensation benefits.
How Can Employers Protect Themselves from Employee Lawsuits?
The best way a company can protect themselves from employee lawsuits is by hiring an experienced employment law attorney for guidance through new legal requirements. An employment lawyer will help create a comprehensive complaint handbook for employees and employers.
Create a Comprehensive Employee Handbook
Legal counsel will help you create an employee handbook specifying legally compliant policies, and make sure that the policies are rolled out to the company in a proper way.
While it’s good to have company policy on paper, the policies should be ones that the company follows, and consistently enforces. So, it’s important to create customized policies that fit with your company’s working environment, staff, and culture.
Treat Employees with Respect
An often, overlooked way to prevent employee lawsuits is treating people with fairness and respect. Many lawsuits come about because the employee believes they were treated differently than other employees, so policies must be applied to employees in a uniform manner.
Treating your employees with respect prevents many situations from turning into a lawsuit down the road. Respect can be communicated with kindness, prompt and direct communication, and empathy. Company leaders can receive training to focus on their emotional intelligence to reduce legal risk.
Employment Practices Liability Insurance
Another protection for companies is Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). This policy will offer coverage for an employee’s claim against the business.
Place Litigation Holds on Business Records
When an employee threatens to sue their employer, it is important to place litigation holds on any business records that pertain to the situation. This means preserving all corporate records related to their threat in case they are needed for evidence in a subsequent lawsuit.
If an employee does file a lawsuit, all your communications will be discoverable and could be used against you in court. Therefore, what you say and write about that employee in question is crucial.
There are several reasons why some employee matters should be discussed verbally instead of through email, as emails can be printed out and used against you in a trial or deposition. Further, emails are often less confidential than phone calls.
There are other matters that are important to document in writing, and your employment lawyer can assist with proper legal documentation for an employee termination. READ MORE on steps an employer can take to prevent employee lawsuits.
Employment Dispute Resolution Options
The different options available for resolving employment disputes include pre-litigation resolution through a settlement, binding arbitration, traditional court resolution, and mediation.
The best approach to resolving employment disputes is to have direct communication between the employer and employee promptly after the dispute arises. This lets both parties be clear on the situation and what actions must be taken to resolve the issue.
Employers must understand and listen to the employee’s concerns while being clear on the company’s policies and expectations. On the other hand, employees should take the time to understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as the company’s procedures for addressing employment disputes.
By working together, both parties can reach a fair and satisfactory resolution. Mediation, pre-litigation dispute resolution, arbitration, and even traditional court resolution are all options that can be pursued.
Still, it is often best to try and resolve the issue without involving an outside party. This can be done by speaking with your human resources department. You can also contact our employment attorneys to assess your legal options and help you come to a resolution.
While settlement tends to be the preference for most, sometimes litigation is necessary. But when an impartial third party gets involved in the resolution process, you can’t always control the outcome, which can be unpredictable or substandard.
It is best to assess your legal exposure and find a solution before involving third parties. This way, the potential negative outcomes of litigation can be avoided. READ MORE on options for employment dispute resolution.
Are Exit Interviews Legally Required?
In-person exit interviews are not required by law, but they can help companies notice their exposure to potential lawsuits. For instance, if an employee raises a legal issue during the exit interview, such as a situation where there was unlawful harassment or discrimination, these issues can be investigated and quickly resolved.
The HR department and the company’s employment lawyer can review the company’s internal operations for inconsistencies and issues that need to be addressed.
Contact Lipp Law Today
Lipp Law is dedicated to helping businesses and employees navigate through the challenges of employment law. Whether it’s a new business opportunity, a challenge at work, involuntary or voluntary employment termination or a breach of employment contract, we can help. We have experience on both sides when it comes to employment law, so we can represent businesses and executives alike.
One of the employment law areas that Lipp Law focuses on are matters involving employee mobility.
Our proximity to the tech hub of Northern Virginia means that we work with many technology organizations and, therefore, we often take on legal matters involving non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, or matters involving employee poaching. However, we have clients spanning numerous industries, including construction, government contracts, staffing, hospitality, property management, education, nonprofits, and more.
Call Lipp Law
We look forward to serving your needs.