You decide to fire one of your employees. You approach them on a Monday and tell them that Friday will be their last day.
They’re not pleased, and they demand to know why. You decline to tell them. They state that it’s illegal since you can’t fire them without letting them know why they are losing their job. Is this true?
Are they an at-will employee?
If your employee is an at-will employee, as most workers are, you don’t even need to have a reason to fire them, much less tell them what the reason is. Some CEOs note that they’ll fire people who simply don’t seem like a fit for the company. It doesn’t mean they did anything wrong. The employer just thinks someone else may be a better fit. It’s not illegal to fire an employee without a reason or to decline to tell them what your reason is.
Where this gets tricky is that you still can’t fire someone for an illegal reason, such as because of their religion or their race. If they think that you won’t tell them the reason because it’s illegal, then they may start a lawsuit against your company. That’s why being honest is often the best policy.
That said, if your reason was not illegal, you certainly have not violated the law just by refusing to answer all of the questions they have. You’re not obligated to tell them anything — unless they have a contract or your company has a policy saying you will — and you must know your legal options if they sue.