There are many reasons why companies fire employees. But most of the time, your employer doesn’t need a reason to let you go. Unless you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, you're likely an at-will employee. Employment at will means that an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason and without notice.
That said, most employers won't fire an employee without cause. Most firings are considered termination for cause, which means the employee is fired for a specific reason.
Keep in mind that a job termination is different from a layoff, which takes place when an employee is let go because of a lack of work.
10 Reasons Employees Can Get Fired
Take a look at some of the most common reasons that employees can get fired from their jobs. Consider this a list of "what not to do" and avoid making these mistakes.
1. Damaging Company Property
You know that scene in the movie “Office Space” where three employees destroy the printer? It's funny in the movie, but in real life, that's a fireable offense. Whether intentional or not, if your actions lead to damage to the company's property or equipment, it could result in the loss of your job.
2. Drug or Alcohol Possession at Work
Being intoxicated or taking drugs in the workplace will interfere with your on-the-job performance, and with some drugs, may be illegal as well.
3. Falsifying Company Records
Not only is this unethical, but this could result in long-term legal or performance problems for the company.
You don't have to say "yes" to all requests or always agree with your manager. However, a refusal to obey orders, obstructionist behavior, or contentious communications can lead to a loss of your job. If you disagree with your manager's requests or policies, express it politely or get in touch with the company's Human Resources department for help with mediation.
There's a lot that falls into this category from sexual harassment to bullying to criminal misbehavior. Unethical conduct, including lying, stealing, fraud, and industrial espionage, also falls within this category.
6. Poor Performance
Companies want employees who do their work and do it well. Fundamentally, if you are not fulfilling the duties outlined in your job description, you are receiving warnings about your performance, or if your work requires oversight or often needs to be re-done, you are not a good investment for the company.
Not only is it illegal, but it's a fireable offense. This includes petty theft, such as a box of pens or ream of paper, as well as stealing money or large items or equipment from the company.
8. Using Company Property for Personal Business
Most companies won't mind if you use the office copier for a personal document or send an occasional personal email from your work computer. However, constant use of the Internet or office equipment for personal matters or for working on your side gig isn't acceptable.
9. Taking Too Much Time Off
If you're always late, frequently take sick days, or use more than your allotment of vacation days, employers will notice. Your absence could interfere with work getting done—both your own work and the work of others on your team.
10. Violating Company Policy
Policies vary from company to company, and it's a good idea to review your company's policies when you get hired carefully. Some companies, for instance, may have a policy on office dating, appropriate conduct in person and on social media, and much more. Make sure to follow these rules.
Remember that if you are an at-will employee, your employer may terminate your job at any time, for any reason—or no reason at all.
More Reasons for Termination of Employment
A survey from Airtasker shows that employers have terminated an employee from a job for the following reasons:
- 57% attitude issues
- 41% personality issues
- 40% not completing their assigned duties
- 34% poor attendance
- 31% violating company policy
Other reasons an employee can be fired include lying on a resume or job application, not being able to get along with co-workers or management, for posting on social media sites—or for no reason at all.
Many employers have policies that detail the termination process, including whether employees can expect a warning before being fired. Check your employee handbook or speak with Human Resources for more information on company policies and procedures.
What Are Your Rights When Your Job Is Terminated?
While employers can often terminate your employment contract at will, you do have some rights if you lose your job. These may include:
- Notice of termination. The WARN Act requires employers with more than 100 employees to provide notice 60 days prior to a mass layoff. Some states also have laws requiring advanced notice in certain situations.
- Continuation of health care coverage. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives qualified employees the right to continue their health insurance coverage after losing their job. Typically, employees cover the whole cost of their insurance, including the amount previously contributed by the employer.
- Unemployment Benefits. If you lose your job through no fault of your own—i.e., via a layoff instead of termination for cause—you are likely entitled to receive unemployment benefits. But even if you are fired, it’s worth looking into your eligibility for benefits.