Guide to Firing Employees in Kansas for Employers

April 13th 2024

Terminating an employee is among the most challenging responsibilities for an employer. In Kansas, a state recognized for its robust employee rights, a detailed legal framework ensures fairness and prevents discrimination in the workplace. This guide aims to provide employers in Kansas with a comprehensive understanding of the termination process, legal considerations, and best practices to minimize litigation risks.

This Guide Covers

What Does Firing an Employee Involve?
Differentiating between Firing, Layoffs, and Resignations in Kansas
Why the Termination Process Matters in Kansas
Termination Laws in Kansas: What You Need to Know
Legal Implications of Wrongful Termination in Kansas
Required Documents for Employers and Terminated Employees in Kansas
Who is Responsible for Terminating in Kansas?
How Long Should the Termination Process Last in Kansas?
How Can You Prepare for Termination in Kansas?
Steps for a Respectful Termination Process in Kansas
Post-Termination: What Happens Next?
Legal Considerations During Termination in Kansas
Bonus: Best Practices for Reducing Litigation Risks in Kansas

What Does Firing an Employee Involve?

Firing or terminating an employee is the process of permanently ending an employee’s contract of employment with your company. In Kansas, a state that recognizes “at-will” employment, employees can be fired for various reasons including, but not limited to, performance issues, misconduct, redundancy, or business closure.

Differentiating between Firing, Layoffs, and Resignations in Kansas

In the context of employment terminations, employers should be aware of the differences between firing, layoffs, and resignations. These scenarios have different effects on employees and employers, and handling them appropriately is crucial for maintaining fairness in the workplace and complying with Kansas employment laws. 

Firing in Kansas

Employees are generally fired as a result of their actions or underperforming in the workplace. Common reasons for firing include: violating workplace policies, inability to meet performance or productivity goals, misconduct, disrupting the workplace environment, and breaches of confidentiality. However, Kansas is an “at-will” employment state, so employers have the right to terminate an employee at any time, for any legal reason, or no reason at all. While this gives Kansas employers a lot of scope in termination procedures, they must be careful to avoid wrongful termination, which can include firing an employee for discriminatory reasons, as a form of retaliation, or in violation of labor laws.

Layoffs in Kansas

Unlike firing, layoffs in Kansas are not a result of an individual’s work performance. Layoffs occur when businesses face challenges that require them to reduce their workforce. When conducting layoffs, employers in Florida should ensure that the selection process for which employees are laid off is non-discriminatory, fair, and based on objective business criteria. These criteria can include financial difficulties leading to cost-cutting measures, changes in business structure or reorganization that lead to positions becoming redundant, mergers or acquisitions that result in duplicate positions, and closure of specific departments or the entire company. When determining the order of employees to be laid off, employers should consider the nature of an employee’s appointment (such as whether they are full-time, part-time, temporary, or permanent), the duration of their service with the organization, and performance evaluations.

Layoffs can be temporary or permanent. Occasionally, laid-off employees may be reemployed if the business recovers. Employers must comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, notifying workers in the event of a plant closing or mass layoff. This advance notice gives workers and their families time to plan for the potential loss of employment, search for new jobs, and engage in training or retraining programs that will increase their employability in the job market.

Resignations in Kansas

Resignations in Kansas occur when employees voluntarily decide to quit their jobs with a company. This can happen for various reasons, such as relocating, accepting a position at another company, health issues or family needs, or dissatisfaction with their current job. When an employee resigns, they will usually give a notice period. However, this is not a legal requirement, as “at-will” employment laws in Kansas allow both employers and employees to terminate employment at any time, with or without notice. 

The way employers conduct terminations can greatly affect workplace morale and culture. Employers must therefore understand the differences between firing, layoffs, and resignations, and handle each situation respectfully and professionally. 

Why the Termination Process Matters in Kansas

The termination process in Kansas is particularly crucial due to the state’s stringent labor laws and the heightened focus on employee rights. Here’s why the termination process matters. 

  • Compliance with State and Federal Laws: Kansas is an “at-will” employment state, meaning either the employer or employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any legal reason. However, Kansas also has robust legal protections against discrimination and retaliation. To avoid legal issues, such as wrongful termination claims, employers in Kansas must ensure they adhere to a range of state and federal laws.
  • Exceptions to “At-Will” Employment: In Kansas, there are still legal exceptions to “at-will” employment. Exceptions to “at-will” employment include reporting illegal activities, whistleblowing, or filing worker’s compensation claims, and a public employee’s right to free speech under the First Amendment. A wrongful termination claim can arise if an employee believes they were fired for any of these reasons. Properly documenting the reasons for termination and following a fair process is essential to avoid any claims being made.
  • Workplace Morale and Company Reputation: How termination is handled in Kansas can significantly impact the morale of the remaining workforce and the public perception of the company. A respectful and transparent process helps maintain a positive work environment and upholds the company’s reputation as a fair employer. In contrast, mishandled terminations can harm staff morale and tarnish the company’s perception in the public eye.
  • Ensuring the Smooth Transition of Roles and Responsibilities: A well-managed termination process involves transition plans for handing over responsibilities to maintain operational continuity. 
  • Upholding Ethical Standards: In addition to ensuring legal compliance, companies should prioritize ethical conduct. Treating employees with respect and dignity, especially in sensitive scenarios like terminations, aligns with the company’s values and culture. 
  • Reducing Financial Risks: Mishandled terminations can lead to costly legal battles, settlements, or fines if found in violation of labor laws. Employers can minimize these financial risks by following a comprehensive and lawful termination process.

Termination Laws in Kansas: What You Need to Know

Laws Regarding Termination of On-Site Employees in Kansas

  • Kansas “At-Will” Employment Doctrine: In Kansas, the “at-will” employment doctrine allows both employers and employees to terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without a specific reason. While this allows employers some flexibility, it also obligates them to ensure that terminations do not violate any laws, such as those protecting against discrimination or retaliation.
  • Kansas Act Against Discrimination: This law prohibits termination based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry. Employers must ensure that termination decisions do not discriminate against these categories. Documenting legitimate reasons for termination is essential to defend against potential discrimination claims under this act.
  • Kansas Whistleblower Act: Employees in Kansas are protected from retaliation for reporting violations of laws or discussing matters of public health, safety, welfare and general public concern with any member of the legislature or any auditing agency. The Kansas Whistleblower Act ensures employees cannot be terminated on any of these grounds. 
  • Kansas WARN Act: The WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more full-time employees to provide a 60-day notice when: closing a facility of 50 or more workers, shutting down an operating unit of 50 or more workers, laying off between 50 and 499 workers if these layoffs represent at least 33% of the total workforce at a single site, or laying off 500 or more workers at a single location.
  • Final Paycheck Laws: Kansas law mandates that employers must pay final wages by the next regular payday upon termination. Failing to issue the paycheck on time could result in the employer facing penalties for withholding wages. 

Laws Regarding Termination of Remote Employees in Kansas

  • Application of the “At-Will” Doctrine to Remote Workers: The same “at-will” employment principles apply to remote workers. Employers can terminate remote employees without cause, but not for illegal reasons, such as discrimination or retaliation. Employers should exercise additional caution when terminating remote employees as they could be working in locations governed by different, potentially stricter, employment laws. 
  • Telecommuting Agreements: If a detailed telecommuting agreement is in place, it may outline specific termination procedures or required notice periods for terminating remote employees. Employers must strictly adhere to these agreements to avoid legal claims of contract violation.
  • Data Protection and Privacy: When terminating remote employees, employers must ensure the safe handling of confidential company information to comply with data protection regulations. Employers should establish clear procedures for securely transferring and deleting company data from employee-owned devices to prevent data breaches and protect privacy.

In Kansas, the legal implications of wrongful termination can be extensive and complex, given the state’s robust employment laws and protections. Here’s a detailed look at these implications:

  • Violation of Anti-Discrimination Laws: Kansas enforces stringent anti-discrimination laws, notably through the Kansas Act Against Discrimination. Employers that violate discrimination laws can face serious consequences, including compensatory damages for lost wages and employment benefits, punitive damages, and payment of the plaintiff’s legal fees. 
  • Retaliation Claims: Another exception to “at-will” employment is retaliation. In Kansas, it is illegal to terminate employees for engaging in legally protective activities, such as filing a complaint or lawsuit, whistleblowing, or participating in an investigation related to employment rights. This can lead to legal outcomes such as reinstatement, back pay, and increased damages, especially if malicious intent or willful violation of the law is proven.
  • Breach of Contract Claims: Employment in Kansas is generally at-will, but there are exceptions, particularly when an explicit or implied contract is involved. If an employer terminates an employee in violation of the terms of an existing contract, whether written, verbal, or implied, it can lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit. In such cases, the employee may be entitled to damages for breach of contract, including compensation for lost wages and additional benefits and, in some cases, emotional as well as physical distress.
  • Violation of Public Policy: Kansas law also protects employees from terminations based on violations of public policy. For example, dismissing an employee for refusing to participate in any sort of illegal activities, performing a statutory obligation like jury duty, or exercising a legal right or privilege. Terminations that breach public policy can lead to compensation and additional damages for the wronged employee.
  • Constructive Discharge: If the working environment violates the law or the employee’s rights, the employer might face a wrongful termination suit. This applies when an employee is forced to quit due to unbearable working conditions. In such cases, the legal repercussions may include compensation for lost wages and emotional distress. 
  • Financial Impact and Reputational Damage: Wrongful termination lawsuits in Kansas can be costly for businesses. In addition to paying compensation and punitive damages or settlements, employers must cover legal expenses. These lawsuits can also damage a company’s image, which can affect recruiting, employee retention, and partnerships.
  • Impact on Employee Morale: Wrongful termination lawsuits can affect the morale and productivity of current employees of the organization. If employees perceive the termination as unfair or unethical, this could hurt their motivation and job satisfaction. 

Required Documents for Employers and Terminated Employees in Kansas

Employers Requirements 

  • Final Paycheck: Employers in Kansas are legally required to issue an employee’s final paycheck before or on the next regular payday. This law is applicable to all terminated employees regardless of whether they were fired, laid off, or resigned. 
  • Termination Letter: For legal protection, employers should provide a termination letter to terminated employees. This letter should clearly state the reasons for dismissal, the effective date of termination, and any outstanding pay and benefits due to the employee. 
  • Unemployment Benefits Information: Employers must inform departing employees about their options for continuing benefits, including providing Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) notices for healthcare and information about worker’s compensation, if applicable. This ensures that employees are aware of their rights and options after their employment ends.
  • Record of Employment: A detailed record of the employee’s tenure, including performance evaluations, disciplinary measures, and training sessions should be kept in case of potential legal issues like wrongful termination claims.

Terminated Employees Requirements 

  • Signed Acknowledgement of Termination: Terminated employees in Kansas may be asked for a signed acknowledgment of termination as confirmation of receiving the documentation. This is not a legal requirement but is recommended to retain the employee’s recognition of the terms of dismissal in writing. 
  • Return of Company Property: Terminated employees are required to return all company-owned equipment, access cards, documents, and any other property before leaving. In addition, documenting the return of company property helps avoid potential disputes over property ownership post-termination. 
  • Non-Disclosure and Non-Complete Agreements: If the employee has signed any non-disclosure or non-compete agreements, they must continue to adhere to its terms even after termination. Employees should retain copies for their records and review the terms for compliance.
  • Attend an Exit Interview: If requested, the terminated employee should attend an exit interview. This is an opportunity to provide feedback on their employment experience and resolve any further issues. 
  • Update of Personal Contact Information: Terminated employees should provide current contact information to ensure they receive final documents or any future communications.

Who is Responsible for Terminating in Kansas?

In Kansas, handling employee terminations requires a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of key players within an organization. This ensures that the process is conducted legally, fairly, and respectfully. The main participants in this process are Human Resources (HR), managers, and legal counsel, each with specific duties and areas of expertise, which include:

Role and Responsibilities of Human Resources 

Human Resources (HR) is at the forefront of the termination process. They ensure that the termination complies with company policies and legal regulations by verifying relevant documentation, handling logistical aspects like preparing termination letters, and coordinating the payment of the final paycheck. HR also plays an advisory role, guiding managers on best practices for conducting termination meetings. Furthermore, HR communicates the termination decision to the employee and provides information about the COBRA and any other benefits or resources.

Role and Responsibilities of Managers 

Managers also play a central role in the termination process. They are often the ones who first identify performance or conduct issues and communicate these problems to HR. Managers may also collect evidence of these issues and record efforts to improve the situation. It is their responsibility to present instances of performance or behavioral issues that justify the termination decision. Post-termination, managers play a crucial role in reorganizing teams, reassigning responsibilities, and maintaining team morale.

Role and Responsibilities of Legal Counsel

Legal counsel guides the legal aspects of the termination to prevent lawsuits, such as wrongful termination claims. They ensure that the employer’s actions align with the law and company policies. Legal counsel plays a crucial role in complex cases, such as those involving contract disputes, allegations of discrimination or harassment, or high-risk terminations. In legal proceedings, they represent the employer, applying their expertise in employment law to protect the company’s interests.

How Long Should the Termination Process Last in Kansas?

In Kansas, the duration of the termination process can differ based on various factors unique to each situation. As an “at-will” employment state, Kansas allows employers to dismiss employees at any time, for any reason, and without prior notice. However, exceptions to “at-will” termination exist, requiring employers to approach terminations cautiously and strategically, prioritizing record-keeping and clear communication. 

More complex cases, such as allegations of misconduct, discrimination, or harassment often require thorough investigations, which could extend the duration of the termination process. Similarly, if there are contractual obligations, such as specific notice periods, these must be followed, drawing out the termination process significantly. 

Ultimately, the priority is to conduct terminations meticulously, closely observing state and federal employment laws. This requires a balance of efficiency to minimize any workplace disruption or unnecessary tension and thoroughness to avoid legal and reputational risks. The entire termination process typically lasts a few weeks. This timeframe should be sufficiently long to comply with state and federal employment laws such as the Kansas Act Against Discrimination and the Kansas WARN Act for large-scale layoffs, issue the final paycheck on time, and handle the logistical aspects of the employee exit. 

How Can You Prepare for Termination in Kansas?

Preparing for termination in Kansas involves a series of steps, which include:

  • Understand Legal Requirements: Before terminating an employee in Kansas, it’s crucial to understand the state’s termination laws. Kansas follows the “at-will” principle, where both employers and employees can terminate employment at any time, for any lawful reason. However, it’s important to note that employers cannot terminate employment based on protected characteristics (such as age, race, or disability) or in retaliation for exercising legal rights (e.g., reporting illegal activities).
  • Review Company Policies and Employment Contracts: Carefully review the company’s termination policies and the specific terms of the employee’s contract. Ensure that the termination process fully complies with these policies and contractual agreements. If the employee’s contract outlines specific requirements for termination, such as notice periods or severance payments, these terms must be strictly followed to prevent legal complications. 
  • Document Performance and Conduct Issues: If the termination is due to performance or conduct issues, thoroughly document and review the employee’s performance history and the reasons for termination. This documentation will provide evidence in case of any legal challenges to the termination. Documentation should include a termination letter, clearly stating the reason for termination, the effective date, the continuation of benefits, and any details regarding severance, if applicable. 
  • Plan the Termination Meeting: Arrange a private and respectful setting for the termination meeting. An HR representative and the employee’s supervisor should attend to ensure that the meeting is conducted fairly and according to plan.
  • Identify Property to Be Returned: After the termination meeting, arrange for the return of company property, such as keys, access cards, and computer equipment. Refer to the employee’s contract for a list of items to be returned, if applicable.
  • Prepare the Final Paycheck: In Kansas, employers are required to provide the final paycheck on or before the next regular payday. Additionally, inform the employee about their rights and options regarding continuation of benefits like health insurance under the COBRA continuation coverage.
  • Communicate with Employees: Plan how you will communicate the employee’s departure to the rest of your team members. This communication should respect the former employee’s privacy while also explaining any adjustments in the distribution of workload.
  • Conduct an Exit Interview: An exit interview, though not mandatory, can offer insightful feedback and help the employee find closure. Approach the interview professionally and empathetically, aiming for mutual respect and understanding.
  • Handling Post-Termination Procedures: After the termination, manage the transition of the employee’s responsibilities and address the impact on the team. Ensure that the departure is communicated to the team in a manner that respects the privacy of the terminated employee.
  • Seek Legal Advice When Necessary: If there are any complexities or uncertainties, seek guidance from an employment attorney to ensure the reasons for dismissal and termination procedure are compliant with current laws.

Steps for a Respectful Termination Process in Kansas

  • Ensure Legal Compliance: Compare your company’s policies with federal, state, and local employment laws. Doing so helps avoid legal issues, such as wrongful termination lawsuits. You must ensure that the termination doesn’t violate anti-discrimination laws or any other legal exceptions to “at-will” employment. 
  • Document Performance and Conduct Issues: Keep detailed records of the employee’s performance or behavioral issues, including dates, specific incidents, and prior warnings or corrective actions taken. Comprehensive documentation of the employee’s tenure provides clear evidence to support the termination decision, in case of any legal challenges. 
  • Plan the Termination Meeting: Organize a termination meeting to inform the employee of their dismissal. Schedule it at a time and place that minimizes the impact on the employee and the workplace. Plan your words carefully, sticking to objective facts and avoiding discriminatory or personal remarks. Having an HR representative present is advisable to ensure the meeting proceeds in compliance with Kansas’s employment laws. Respond to any concerns the employee may have and provide information about the final paycheck and continued insurance coverage under the COBRA
  • Manage Company Property Return and Data Security: Ensure the return of all company assets, including badges, keys, laptops, PCs, and mobile devices. Communicate this request clearly and respectfully to ensure that all items are accounted for and returned promptly. Immediately revoke the employee’s access to company systems, including their email account, computer access, and access to physical premises. This step is critical for protecting sensitive company information and assets.
  • Inform the Team About the Termination: Communicate the departure to the rest of the team in a way that is respectful to the departing employee. Keep the communication professional, avoiding personal details about the termination. Focus on maintaining a positive work atmosphere and ensuring smooth operations. Address any concerns raised by team members regarding the impact of the departure on the team and the organization’s future.
  • Provide an Opportunity for an Exit Interview: Offer the terminated employee an opportunity for an exit interview. This can provide valuable feedback on workplace practices and the termination process itself. These insights can be instrumental in improving employment practices and minimizing potential legal risks in the future.
  • Review the Termination Process: Post-termination, conduct a thorough review of the process to identify areas for improvement. This assessment can help refine your termination procedures, ensuring they remain compliant with Kansas employment law changes and maintain a positive workplace environment.

Post-Termination: What Happens Next?

Post-termination, it’s essential for Kansas employers to be mindful still of legal requirements and retain all relevant documents related to the termination. This is to support the termination decision in case of legal scrutiny and facilitate a smooth transition. 

Firstly, the final paycheck must be issued by the next regular payday. Processing it promptly is also fair and respectful to the employee, reflecting the company’s culture and core values. Inform the employee about the COBRA or other health insurance continuation options if applicable. 

Ensure the employee returns all company property, such as key cards, electronic devices, and sensitive documents. A detailed checklist can be useful to ensure all items are accounted for. Employers should also secure and terminate the employee’s access to company systems and facilities to protect your company’s information and assets. 

Next, it’s important to consider how an employee’s departure can affect company culture and team morale. This may involve having open and respectful discussions with the team and answering any concerns they raise. Communicate the departure sensitively and maintain confidentiality. The departure can also impact task distribution, requiring the hiring of new staff or reallocating roles and responsibilities. This could be a good opportunity to reassess the team’s needs and structure. Engage with your team, as their input can be valuable in understanding the dynamics and requirements of the roles affected.

Finally, reflect on the termination process. Evaluate its effectiveness, compliance with legal requirements, and impact on company culture. This should help identify any potential improvements in policies and practices to prevent similar situations in the future. 

Legal Considerations During Termination in Kansas

  • Kansas Act Against Discrimination: This law prohibits termination based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry. Employers must ensure that termination decisions aren’t discriminatory, as violations can lead to lawsuits with serious compensatory and punitive damages. It’s vital to document non-discriminatory reasons for termination to defend against potential discrimination claims under this act.
  • Kansas WARN Act: Kansas’ Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers with 100 or more full-time employees to provide a 60-day notice period in case of mass layoffs or plant closures. Failure to comply can result in fines and back pay to employees. 
  • Final Paycheck Laws: Kansas law requires employers to issue the final paycheck by the next scheduled payday. If the paycheck is not issued on time, there may be legal repercussions for the employer. 
  • Kansas “At-Will” Employment Doctrine: In Kansas, the “at-will” employment doctrine allows termination without cause but not for illegal reasons like discrimination or retaliation. Employers must be careful that their termination decisions do not violate these laws protecting employee rights. 

Bonus: Best Practices for Reducing Litigation Risks in Kansas

  • Develop Clear Employment Policies: Employers should establish clear, well-documented policies that are consistently applied to all employees. These policies should cover all aspects of employment, including anti-discrimination, harassment, employee conduct, and disciplinary procedures. Regularly updating these policies to comply with current laws is key to reducing litigation risks in Kansas. 
  • Transparency and Open Communication: Staff should not only be informed of employment policies but should be encouraged to openly communicate any concerns. Effective two-way communication ensures expectations are clear and any misunderstandings are addressed promptly. 
  • Documenting Employee Issues: Keeping detailed records of an employee’s tenure, particularly performance and behavioral issues will also reduce legal disputes. Documentation should be factual, unbiased, and consistent. This includes performance reviews, disciplinary actions, attendance records, and relevant correspondence related to employment matters. Proper documentation can be invaluable in defending against wrongful termination or discrimination claims.
  • Regular Training for Management and Staff: Regularly train your managers and staff on these policies, particularly focusing on areas like anti-discrimination, workplace harassment, and safety regulations. Training not only promotes awareness of the company’s policies and legal requirements but also demonstrates the employer’s commitment to a respectful workplace.
  • Consistency in Policy Enforcement: Policies should be uniformly applied to everyone. This includes being consistent in disciplinary actions and termination decisions and following an established disciplinary procedure. Fair and objective disciplinary actions help avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination, thereby reducing litigation risks. 
  • Review and Update Company Policies: Staying informed about federal and state employment laws and regulations is vital. Review and update policies regularly to ensure that they comply with current employment laws. These laws can change so working with a legal expert may be beneficial.
  • Utilize Exit Interviews: Exit interviews can provide insights into workplace issues and provide an opportunity to resolve any further concerns regarding the employee’s departure. The information gathered should be used constructively to improve workplace practices and prevent legal disputes. 
  • Seek Advice from Legal Experts: To avoid legal complications and ensure proper termination procedures, regularly consult with legal experts. Their guidance will help you stay abreast of legal requirements and handle any potential legal challenges that may arise.
  • Prompt and Fair Resolution of Disputes: Addressing and resolving disputes promptly and fairly can prevent lawsuits. Employers should establish an effective procedure for dispute resolution, such as mediation, to facilitate fair and timely resolution of workplace issues. 

Final Thoughts

Firing employees in Kansas requires a careful balance of legal compliance, fairness, and thorough documentation. How terminations are handled affects not only the company’s legal standing but also its reputation and the work environment. Employers must therefore establish clear company policies in line with state and federal laws. Adherence to these policies is key to maintaining a positive work environment and minimizing the risk of litigation.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.