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Can You Fire an Employee Over the Phone? (The RIGHT Way)

By Ferdi Vol
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If you are in doubt whether you can fire an employee over the phone or not and what are the consequences it follows then this article will get you covered. Firing an employee is not an easy task to do. And firing an employee over the phone requires consideration of many aspects of termination and employment agreements.

Under very few circumstances firing an employee over the phone is feasible. Independent contractors and employees without a labor union membership can be fired over the phone if the causes of termination devised are legal. Also, the process of firing an employee over the phone should not breach the employment agreements and labor policies.

However, sometimes firing an employee over the phone can lead to facing wrongful termination and defamation lawsuits. Therefore, in this article, I am going to cover all the necessary pieces of information you need to know to adopt whether or not can you fire an employee over the phone.

When Can You Fire an Employee Over the Phone?

Firing an employee over the phone seems unprofessional to many extents but under certain circumstances, it is feasible to fire over the phone. Here are few of the contexts in which you can fire an employee over the phone-

There is no one holding you back from firing independent contractors, in other words, freelancers over the phone. As independent workers’ pay their own medical and social security taxes, they are not eligible for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections. So, they cannot protest against their termination by engaging in collective bargaining. 

Also, if your employees are not members of the labor union then you can fire them via email or phone calls by devising legal causes of the termination.  Labor union organizations work to protect the rights and job security of employees but if an employee is not a member of it you do not need to worry about 

If the Employment agreements do not include any promises of face-to-face termination and job security then you can fire your employee on legal grounds.

When Can You Not Fire an Employee Over the Phone?

There are many lawful contexts in which you are not permitted to fire an employee over the phone. Adopting any of the approaches is quite a wise thing to do.

In the USA, you are not allowed to fire a disabled employee over the phone as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you think that out of empathy you can fire a disabled employee to reduce his workplace hardships then you are at a wrong here. Because as per the ADA law you need to restructure a disabled employee’s work environment.

So, you cannot fire a disabled employee over the phone in the blink of an eye until he performs his duty smoothly in his restructured accommodations. 

Also, you cannot fire an employee over the phone who is on leave of absence because of unavoidable medical and family reasons. As per the Family and Medical Act, you cannot fire an employee who is unable to come to work and perform duties because of family and medical emergencies.

Labor Acts to Consider before Firing an Employee

Around the world, many labor acts and employment agreements have been developed to avoid causing a brouhaha between two parties. Here are some of the labor acts you should consider before firing your employee over the phone-

• Whistleblower Protection Program

• At-Will Employment Act

• Labor Union Act

Whistleblower Protection Program

If an employee reports against any form of fraudulent, illegal, unethical, discriminatory work conditions then you cannot fire that employee as per the whistleblower protection act. This program protects the whistleblower from retaliation. 

If you want to fire over the phone by maintaining legal policies then make sure not to fire a whistleblower who has complained against your terms and practices. Otherwise, it will seem like you want to fire that employee to retaliate. Therefore, you should keep this labor act in mind before hurrying to fire someone.

At-Will Employment Act

You should not misinterpret the at-will employment act otherwise it will backfire on you. This act surely provides you the liberty of firing any employee over the phone or in any way you want. But the causes of dismissing an employee should not be illegal, false, racial, religious, and discriminatory which can lead you to face a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Do remember that, you should not fire someone for their personal preferences and ideologies that do not even violate work ethics and policies. Otherwise, it might tarnish your and your company’s image. 

Labor Union Act

If you decide to fire someone over the phone in a hurry then it is most likely that you will not consider sending a notice of termination beforehand. And if the employee you want to terminate is a member of a labor trade union then you should think twice before firing him in a jiffy. Because as per the labor union act you cannot fire a member of the union hastily.

So, you are suggested not to fire any of your employees over the phone because you never know who will turn out to be a union member. And you cannot even ask before firing if your employee is a union member or not. Because as per Fair Work Act it is unlawful to ask so.      

How to Avoid Facing a Lawsuit for Firing an Employee?

Nobody wants to face a lawsuit and especially in the case, you have committed no crime. However, to fire an employee you should always adopt the approaches that will mitigate your chances to face a lawsuit. 

Evaluation of Employment Agreement

The evaluation of the employment agreement will help you to avoid any loophole that can lead you to face a lawsuit. Before firing an employee, carefully go through the agreement and evaluate the terms and policies mentioned in it. Make sure to follow the termination policies mentioned in it before firing someone over the phone or in person.

If you make a verbal employment agreement make sure you have a witness to it. The witness can help you in evaluating your verbal agreement. If you have a witness to your verbal agreement and you do not breach the termination policies of that agreement then you are not at the risk of facing a lawsuit. 

Notice of Termination

To avoid a lawsuit, it is safer to send notice of termination before firing an employee. In many developed countries like Canada, you are obligated to send a notice of termination to the employees you want to fire. However, in the USA, you are not bound to send the notice to the at-will workers or freelancers as per the FLSA and at-will employment acts.

Do remember that, if you are an employer working in the private sector with more than 20 employees then you need to send notice of termination before firing. Otherwise, under the WARN and COBRA labor acts of the USA, you might face a lawsuit. So, act wisely and save yourself from facing a lawsuit just by sending notice of termination before firing.

Notice of termination should include all the legal terms that permit you to fire the employee over the phone or in-person after the probationary period. If your employee does not improve his work or ethics within the probationary period mentioned in the notice then you are eligible to fire him legally. 

Knowing the Categories of Workers

Before hurriedly firing your employee try to differentiate the categories of workers. Because firing an employee legally depends on the categories of the employees as well. For example, firing an at-will employee is easier than firing an employee with contract employment. 

Also, to avoid a lawsuit, you should not fire an employee who is a member of a labor union without establishing a legal cause and following legal procedures.

Acquiring Knowledge of Labor Laws and Acts

No matter wherever you are settled in the world, every country has its own labor laws in its public policies. Labor laws are there to protect both the employers and the employees from any wrongful work practices. Therefore, having knowledge of labor laws is a plus for you as an employer to avoid lawsuits for firing an employee. 

You should always keep in mind that the labor laws in the USA are not generous compared to the rest of the countries. If you are in the USA, you should gather basic knowledge regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), At-Will Employment, and COBRA act. 

Also, having knowledge regarding the Whistleblower Protection Program and Collective Bargaining is necessary for you regardless of your nationality. Knowing various aspects of these acts and laws will help you to fire an employee lawfully. Because knowledge of these acts will help you in avoiding any loophole that works against you.

Documentation before Firing

If you want to fire legally without inviting any legal issues then you should document the grounds based on which you will fire an employee. Make sure to document the violation of company policies, agreements, and work ethics. 

If there is anyone who witnesses an employee's poor performance and violation of work policies then interview the witness as well. But remember that the witnesses should have valid grounds to document their statements. 

Also, keep records of the customer complaints against any employee. Documentation of the evidence gives you an upper hand when it comes to fire legally. Your employee cannot file a case if the pieces of evidence against him are documented properly.

Consult a Lawyer

If you are in doubt regarding how to fire an employee legally then you really should consult a lawyer. A lawyer can provide you with all the necessary pieces of information you need to consider before firing someone over the phone or in person. If you fire after consulting a lawyer then your mind will not poke you with doubts regarding the termination.

Be Respectful 

Even if you have all the terms and conditions in your favor to terminate an employee, you should not disrespect the employee while firing. You never know whether your disrespectful behavior can lead your employee to file a defamation lawsuit against you or not. It will cost you no buck to be respectful while terminating an employee.

So, can you fire an employee over the phone? Yes, but the answer isn’t that straight forward. Firing an employee over the phone is not totally impossible but it is quite troublesome than any other approach to firing. It is feasible in very few contexts and also it leaves room for loopholes that can be used against you to file a lawsuit. So, it is better to adopt the more lawful and feasible approaches to firing.

Thank you so much for reading the article till the end. I hope this article could put your doubts regarding firing an employee to rest. I wish you all the very best.

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The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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