Can I Fire an Employee Without a Prior Warning?
Massachusetts law does not require any particular sequence of warning or discipline before terminating an employee. In fact, because Massachusetts is an at-will employment state, in theory at least you do not even need a reason to fire an employee.
Prior warnings, however, are helpful in several ways. If there is any chance that the employee will claim wrongful termination (discrimination or retaliation), a history of warnings can help demonstrate your legitimate business reason for the decision.
Also, as a practical matter, employees who are taken by surprise by a termination are much more likely to look for reasons to challenge the decision.
Finally, a good system of warnings is about more than justifying termination- it is good management practice that can actually help your employees improve.
In short, if you are dealing with behavior or performance issues that are serious enough to justify immediate termination, you may do so legally even without prior warnings. That said, there are many good reasons to use a progressive discipline system in your business.
Learn more here about how to handle an employment termination.
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