As the owner of a company, you realize that you need to downsize in order for the company to remain profitable. You tell some of your employees that they’re going to be let go. They’re naturally not happy with this decision, but you feel that you have to do what’s best for the company as a whole.
What you didn’t expect, however, was for one of the employees to demand that you give them a reason for the firing. Maybe they claim they have done nothing wrong and that their performance on the job has been great. They don’t think that they can be fired. But do you actually need a reason to let them go?
Only if they have a contract
Generally speaking, the majority of workers in the United States are at-will employees. This means that they do not have a contract. They simply work for the company for as long as they want, and the company employs them for as long as you, the owner, would like to do so. Both people can end this relationship at any time.
On one hand, this means that your employees absolutely do not need to give you two weeks’ notice if they leave. On the other, it means that they do not deserve a reason for the firing and you don’t have to fire them for cause.
If they have a contract, this can change things significantly. Contractual employees likely have a set term that they’re supposed to work in the job or they have stipulations saying that they can only be fired for cause. You must adhere to these contracts if they’re in place, but you don’t have to if you have at-will employees.
Of course, if you and your employees end up in a dispute, then you may need to know about all of your legal options.