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Terminating the Employee-Employer Relationship

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Terminating the Employee-Employer Relationship

The decision to terminate the employee-employer relationship is a complicated one.

Authors Dan Van Bogaert and Arthur Gross-Schaefer touch on this in an article for the

Employee Relations Law Journal. As this relationship is a fraught and fragile one, the employer

must take precaution in terminating it. Van Bogaert and Gross-Schaefer explain how to handle

the matter in a legal and ethical manner that leaves little room for a disgruntled former employee

to have issues with the dissolution of the relationship. Much of the risk involved is dependent on

the policies of the employer and the nature of the contract between the employee and employer.

In the United States, a common concept is “at-will” employment which means that the employer

reserves the right to terminate an employee or employees without cause and will not have to

worry about complicated claims of that nature, but this does not make an employer impervious to

potential legal and ethical trouble.

Many employers only think about the potential legal consequences when terminating an

employee. However, the new concept of “termination management” requires that employers

think more deeply about the nature of the employee-employer relationship and how to handle

when it must come to an end. Legal concerns are among the most important, but there are more

inevitable negative consequences that affect remaining employees, management, future

employees, donors, investors, and other important stakeholder groups. Human resources

professionals often warn employers to cover themselves when having to terminate and employee

and especially to exercise caution prior to that termination using thorough review of the

circumstances (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005). An employee who feels that he or she was

wrongfully terminated may attempt to find legal grounds and recourse on account of potential

discrimination, allegations of retaliation against being a “whistleblower,” termination on the


grounds of disability, and more. The authors argue that employees deserve fair treatment in the

working environment and in the context of the employee-employer relationship. In the United

States they are especially protected by a bevy of laws including FMLA, COBRA, ADA, and

CRA-Title VII (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005).

Termination poses risks without proof and documentation. As stated by the authors in the

article, employers should take ever necessary precaution before making the decision to terminate

the employee and should feel justified with proof that it is the right thing to do. All need to be

aware of possible discrimination claims, i.e., if a member of a protected class under the CRA

feels that he or she received unfair or differential treatment on account of race, gender, religion,

national origin, age, etc., there could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit related to workplace

inequality. This presents both legal and ethical issues for the employer if the former employee

can prove that discrimination occurred. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons that

employees are terminated, it is best that employers make it known from the beginning of an

employee’s role that the employer retains the right to terminate those who have engaged in a way

not in accordance with company values or those who have engaged in behavior unbecoming

(Muskovitz, 2019).

Exceptions to the rule of at-will employment doctrines include constructive discharge in

which an employee quits on account of intolerable actions and in a state of mind in which any

reasonable person would have also quit; public policy that protects employees from termination

for a reason that violates public policy; employment contracts that cover a specific period;

collective bargaining agreements that only allow for-cause termination; and disability. These

exceptions go far to protect employees from being discriminated against and allow them to be

covered in the event that contracts and an expire, in a way that gives them right to protest unfair

and unsafe labor practice, and prevents people who need reasonable work accommodations from

being terminated (Heathfield, 2020).

Protections of federal law and protections that nullify at-will employment are necessary

to protect employees from employers that are uncaring for and unconcerned with their overall

workforce. The article is basic in its explanation and understanding of employment in the United

States. I find it important that employees as working-class citizens that do not have the

protections that businesses do are more taken care of than the latter.


Heathfield, S. M. (2020, April 30). What Are the Key Causes of Employment Termination? The

Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-causes-employment-


Muskovitz, M. (2019, September 24). Make Sure That You Fire Employees Legally and

Ethically. The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/employment-


Van Bogaert, D., & Gross-Schaefer, A. (2005). Terminating the employee-employer

relationship: ethical and legal challenges. Employee Relations Law Journal, 31(1), 49.