Colorado is an at-will employment state, meaning that employees are legally allowed to quit a job for any reason and employers are legally permitted to terminate an employee’s employment for any legal reason. However, an employer may not terminate an at-will employee if the motivation for termination falls within certain protected areas. If this happens, an employee may file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer for back pay and other damages.
Termination must NOT be based on one of the following reasons:
- Discrimination based on gender, religion, disability, or another classification
- Sexual harassment
- Retaliation for whistleblowing
- Termination for exercising legal rights, opposing illegal practices, or refusing to break the law
Employers need to show legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for termination
If an employer has been sued for wrongful termination, part of the defense is to show that the employee was terminated for legal, non-discriminatory reasons. Some of these reasons may include:
- Excessive absences or chronic tardiness
- Poor performance reviews or lack of productivity
- Unethical conduct
- Physical violence or sexual harassment
- Insubordination or failure to abide by company policy
In addition to establishing that an employee’s behavior led to their termination, employers should also be able to show that their disciplinary policies applied to all similarly situated employees and that no employee was treated differently because they were a member of a protected class.
If a former employee has filed a lawsuit or files a claim of discrimination against your company, an attorney specializing in Colorado employment law should be consulted to determine the circumstances and if appropriate prepare a defense strategy to fight the claims against you. Your attorney will gather documentation relating to the termination, as well as company disciplinary policies, to establish that the employee was terminated for legitimate reasons.