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Do you have to tell someone why you’re firing them?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2020 | Employment Law For Employers |

If you tell an employee that you’re letting them go, the first thing they’re probably going to ask is why you’re doing it. If you don’t tell them or don’t have a reason, they may protest that you have to tell them and that it’s unfair or even illegal not to. Are they correct?

They’re not. Florida, like many states, uses at-will employment. This just means that the two sides (the business and the employee) can work together as long as they want. The employee is free to quit at any time and the employer is free to fire them at any time. They don’t need to talk about the reason and an employer (or employee) doesn’t even need to have a reason. Maybe you just don’t feel like having them work there anymore. That’s fine. 

The big difference is if they have either an employee handbook that tells them they’ll be informed of a reason or a contract saying that you do need to have a reason to fire them. You have to follow these legal rules, and a contract overrides the at-will employment status. If you break your own business’s rules, that’s where you can run into trouble. 

This does not matter for the vast majority of companies and employees, who simply operate under the at-will laws. You can tell them why you’re firing them if you want, and it may be wise to do so to reduce conflict, but you’re not obligated to do it. Just make sure you understand your legal rights, especially if the employee is unhappy.