Although firing at-will (termination for no reason or cause) is legal in most cases, it’s not the smartest or safest way to go. Listen to one company’s $100,000 tale or woe.
A business owner decided that “good old Joe” just didn’t fit in with his team and he wanted him gone. So he said to his HR manager “I know that employees are at will, so that means I can fire them for any reason or for no reason. I want to get rid of Joe right now.” Although the HR manager tried to convince the owner that while firing Joe without cause or reason was legal it just wasn’t the right way to do it. As you can guess, the advice fell on deaf ears and good old Joe got the sack.
About two weeks later Joe, the employee who got fired for no reason, sued the company claiming that he was terminated because of his age.
When the owner was asked by his attorney why he fired Joe without reason or cause he said, “Because he just didn’t fit in with the team.” When the attorney drilled down just a little, the owner said it was because Joe dressed and acted like an “old fogey” and it didn’t fit with his company image.
Although his attorney urged the owner to settle out of court because no jury or judge would believe the old “I fired him for no reason because it was my legal right” excuse, the owner decided to have his say in front of a jury of his peers.
Guess whom the jury believed? You’re right! Joe walked out of court a richer man and the legal, but stupid firing cost the owner a hefty $100,000 in settlement to Joe and attorney fees and court costs.