Firing Horse Business Employees Within the Law

If you run an equine business long enough you probably will have to terminate an employee at some point. Make sure you do it within the law.
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Make sure if you have to let an employee go that you do it within the laws of your state and the federal government.

Spring and summer are the busiest seasons at a horse farm or boarding facility and often are when you are hiring additional employees. How can you make sure you are hiring the right people? This series on finding the right employee should help.

Firing within the law begins with understanding your state’s laws. Employment-at-will states such as New York or Florida have laws that state that any employee can quit or be fired at any time without reason, explained Mary K. Thomas president of Equistaff, a recruiting and staffing agency based in Ocala, Florida.

Although at-will states provide employers the opportunity to terminate an employee without reason, state and federal laws prohibit all employers from firing based on discrimination, retaliation or for exercising legal rights such as taking time for family or medical leave, to vote or to serve on a jury.

In other states, employers must have cause. In either scenario, having policies that are administered uniformly with all employees is key. 

Should an employee be asked to leave, he or she might try to bring a lawsuit. Even if the termination was justified, if all employees aren’t treated equally, it can become a costly legal entanglement.

Thomas uses attendance as an example. Your farm's policy might state that the first time an employee is more than 10 minutes late to work he or she will receive a verbal warning. After the second instance, the employee will receive a written warning. A third instance means termination.

“It’s always best to measure with facts and warnings,” Thomas said.

There are occasions where a behavior is blatant and can result in immediate termination. If an employee becomes violent with a client, that is good enough reason to terminate without a progression of verbal and written warnings.

Human resources consultants are available across the country and can assist with creating an employee handbook with policies, said Thomas Schin, a client relations executive for AccuStaff, a staffing agency in Malta, New York.

“Handbooks set the expectations for employees,” Schin said.

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers detailed advice on the topic of firing within the law. Specifically check out Caron Beesley’s article, "How to Fire an Employee and Stay within the Law" at https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-fire-employee-and-stay-within-law.