6 Justified Reasons for Employee Termination

Back to blog
Posted by: David Garcia April 05, 2024

Terminating an employee should not be taken lightly. While it’s always essential to adhere to legal rules and ethical standards that most of us can agree to, there does come a time when a relationship between an employer and employee goes past the point of possible repair.

Termination can have both a positive and negative effect on a business. When done for the right reasons and in the correct manner, it can help preserve the integrity and harmonious nature of the workplace. Still, if done poorly or for reasons that aren’t legally or morally balanced, a termination can have a disastrous effect on those left behind.

Understanding the appropriate grounds for termination is vital for employers and employees, as it shapes the entire working atmosphere and business ethos.

What Is Justified Employee Termination?

Protecting workers’ rights has come a long way in the last century. While it used to be a case of ‘pack your bags and get out’ for the slightest indiscretion, today’s employment laws provide a much-needed level of security that means a termination needs to be wholly justified and not just at the whim of a disgruntled employer.

A justified employee termination refers to an employee’s lawful and reasonable dismissal due to actions or behaviors by that person. How these actions and behaviors get interpreted, and the steps taken will typically depend on the contract signed at the start of employment, generally viewed as undermining the core values and operations of the organization. 

Terminations often follow a documented process of evaluation and warnings, but there are also several examples where they are effective immediately. 

The Justified Reasons for Termination


Conduct and behavior are probably two more justified and straightforward reasons for termination, including bullying, harassment, discrimination, or any behavior that creates a hostile or antagonistic work environment. Businesses usually have a code of conduct outlined within their employment contracts that clearly state their expected behaviors and the consequences of failing to adhere to these standards. 

Termination for misconduct is usually considered a last resort but is necessary to maintain a safe and respectful working environment. However, there may also be instances where termination can occur immediately, often where misconduct links to other grievous offenses such as criminal behavior.


Terminating a person’s employment because of performance is usually a complex process. Most companies and employment rules state that employees have several warnings and evaluations before a dismissal can occur. 

Performance-based dismissals are generally preceded by performance improvement plans (PIPs), providing employees with clear objectives and support to enhance their productivity. 

Failure to improve after these interventions demonstrates a lack of fit between the employee’s capabilities and the job requirements.


Poor attendance, tardiness, or unauthorized leave can disrupt workflow and negatively impact team dynamics and morale. Other team members will quickly become disgruntled if they perceive that another employee is having an easy ride, which makes clamping down on poor attendance important from the start. 

Employers typically have attendance policies, and failure to comply can result in termination. However, as with causes for dismissal, this must be preceded by several warnings, usually increasing in severity, before an employer can trigger a termination.

Criminal Behavior

Any criminal behavior within or outside the workplace that jeopardizes the company’s reputation or violates a basic code of conduct can lead to immediate dismissal, including physical violence, discriminatory language, theft, fraud, embezzlement, or any other criminal act directly impacting the company or its employees.

Criminal behavior directly linked with the business is usually a termination no-brainer. At the same time, the employer must carefully evaluate actions outside of the workplace that don’t affect the company. While it may be within their rights to terminate a contract, they may choose not to because of extenuating circumstances.

Drugs & Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are other reasons that can easily lead to an immediate dismissal. Some businesses, especially in construction or manufacturing, have standard drug and alcohol tests, and should an employee fail a test, it gets seen as a legitimate ground for dismissal.

A drug and alcohol policy will almost certainly also cover general hours of operation, and should you believe an employee to be under the influence, even when tests do not get administered, there might be a termination case. However, specific guidelines will be in place for proving this, which may include a mandatory test.

Safety Violation

Safety is another big one. Endangering the lives of colleagues, customers, and even oneself in the construction, manufacturing, or healthcare industries is non-negotiable, but safety standards apply to all employment sectors. Repeated safety violations, especially those that result in accidents or near-misses, can lead to termination.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Justified Reason for Termination?

There are many reasons for termination, such as layoffs and downsizing. Still, it can also link to performance, behavior, safety, or actions that significantly breach employment terms or negatively impact the organization’s operations or reputation.

Final Thoughts

Employers may feel nervous about dismissing employees. The looming threat of legal action and the increasingly common online tarring of companies by those they’ve dismissed means that many must work through a minefield of warnings, evaluations, PIPs, and painful conversations before they can get to the point of justifiable termination. Understanding the procedure is crucial for employers and employees as it ensures the process is fair, transparent, and respectful of both parties’ rights. 

Removing a bad employee is often challenging, but sometimes it becomes unavoidable. At that stage, it’s better to pull the trigger and begin the termination process rather than allow things to drag and negatively impact your business. However, one of the best ways to not end up in this situation in the first place is to screen each employee carefully as they come in. ScoutLogic provides a comprehensive overview of a candidate’s background, helping to ensure that hiring decisions are informed and secure.

Latest blog posts
May 02, 2024
What Is a Level 2 Background Check?
If you’re starting the recruitment process, you may be required to perform a Level 2 background check on any potential employee. However, many recruiters are unaware of the...
May 01, 2024
What Is Human Resource Management?
Anyone who has ever been a part of a company or organization has probably had some contact with people from the human resources department. HR is something of a black box to people...
April 30, 2024
How To Screen Resumes
When a new position opens up, hundreds of people will apply for the coveted spot. Hours can fly by while recruiting, just sorting resumes into piles of “no,” “yes,” and...
April 30, 2024
Recruiting Gen Z
As Gen Zers begin to make their way into the workforce, it can be challenging to understand this new generation, and recruiters can often struggle to enlist Gen Z...
April 24, 2024
The Pros and Cons of Internal Recruitment
Employees come and go, and there are various ways you can find a suitable person to fill a vacancy. External hiring, advertising, head-hunting - the list is long - but some companies...
Looking for a better background check company? Start by preparing with this free guide.

Download this free guide to go into the searching process prepared. This guide includes actionable steps to:

  • Gather your requirements
  • Determine vendors
  • Check references
  • Determine success metrics
get a free e-book

Get a free e-book