`You Have The Right To Be Fired...'

Win or lose, lawsuits brought by fired employees can cause serious damage to your company. How to deter them? If workers understand the limits on their rights from the start, they are less likely to file vindictive suits, employment lawyers say. The problem is, most overestimate their legal protection. A recent study by Pauline Kim, associate law professOr at Washington University, found 89% of 337 job-seekers with recent work experience thought it was illegal to fire an employee out of personal dislike. (In most states, a worker can be fired for any reason except discrimination or refusing to break the law.) One way to manage expectations--and firm up your legal ground--is with carefully written materials. Company documents, such as an employment offer, policy manual, or performance review, should avoid the words "permanent" and "just cause," which suggest management's rights are limited. Kim found that the percentage of those who think It is illegal to fire someone for a cheaper replacement drops from 82 to 63 if a company's policy states "we retain the right to discharge Employees at any time, for any reason, with or without cause."

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