At-will employment is standard in the United States, meaning that an employer can fire someone for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal. However, there are specific reasons for a firing that are not allowed and are protected by federal law. Here, Denver PEO StaffScapes shares five illegal reasons to fire an employee:
While you can fire an employee of any race, their race or national origin cannot be the reason why their employment is terminated. For example, you cannot fire a person of color because you want a white person to take their position (and vice versa). Also, if the employee is authorized to work in the country or is a citizen, you cannot discriminate them on their country of origin.
A person’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are protected by federal law. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if a Catholic priest in a parish decides to marry, he can be fired. However, if he works for a for-profit business, he can still keep his job. You may also be required to make accommodations for those with religious beliefs, such as allowing religious clothing in the workplace.
You cannot fire a woman for being pregnant or giving birth to her child. If she has been employed for at least a year, your business has more than 50 employees, and she has worked a certain number of hours during her employment, then she is eligible for twelve weeks of protected leave. She can take up to twelve weeks off to give birth and spend time at home with her child.
Sex and Sexual Orientation
You cannot fire someone if they are a man or a woman; transgender employees have the same protections. Homosexuality is also protected under federal law.
While you can fire someone for being too young, you cannot fire someone for being too old, as long as that age is over 40. After 40, employees are protected from being fired based on their age.
If you are an employer and you are preparing to fire a member of your staff, the reasoning should be based on their job performance instead of the reasons listed above. Be sure to be professional while firing the employee. While the employee will not be happy about losing their job, it is better to avoid any legal troubles.