Employers are often warned about firing employees who are in a protected class. Race is a protected class, for instance, so employers need to be careful not to discriminate against minority employees. Age is another class, so employers need to understand how their more experienced employees are protected.
However, some employers think the status of these employees prevents you from firing them at all. That is untrue. You absolutely can fire these employees. You just need to make sure that you do it correctly and for the right reasons.
What are the Right Reasons?
If the protected class itself is the reason for the firing — such as if you fire someone specifically because of their gender — then you’re going to get in legal trouble. You need to have a valid reason to fire any employee, whether they are in a protected class or not.
For instance, maybe you have a female employee who is always late to work. You can certainly fire her for being late to work and breaking company rules. You cannot fire her because she is a female employee.
Or you have an employee in their 60s who is slowing your production line down. You can probably fire them for not being fast enough to do the job, but you need to avoid associating their speed with their age when you do it.
That being said, as an employer, you need to be wary that some employees may take legal action over perceived discrimination. At times like that, it’s important to understand your legal options.