Guide to Firing Employees in Nebraska for Employers

April 8th 2024

Terminating an employee is one of the most challenging tasks an employer may face. Whether due to performance issues, misconduct, or economic necessity. The process of firing an employee requires careful consideration of legal obligations, ethical considerations, and potential repercussions. For employers in Nebraska, understanding the specific legal framework governing terminations is essential to conduct this process effectively while minimizing legal risks.

This firing guide aims to provide employers in Nebraska with a clear understanding of the steps involved in terminating an employee.

This firing guide covers:

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

What Does Firing an Employee in Nebraska Involve?

In Nebraska, firing an employee follows the at-will employment doctrine, allowing employers to terminate employees for any legal reason. However, employers must adhere to federal and state employment laws to ensure termination is not based on discriminatory or retaliatory actions.

Differentiating between Firing, Layoffs, and Resignations in Nebraska

In Nebraska, the are legal distinctions between firing, layoffs, and resignations:

Firing in Nebraska

Firing, also known as termination or dismissal, occurs when an employer ends the employment relationship with an employee. In Nebraska, employment is “at-will,” meaning that employers have the right to terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not unlawful. However, exceptions to this principle exist, such as anti-discrimination laws and contractual agreements.

When firing an employee in Nebraska, employers should ensure that the decision is based on legitimate business reasons and that proper procedures are followed to minimize the risk of legal liability. This may include providing clear reasons for the termination, conducting fair investigations if misconduct is alleged, and documenting the process thoroughly.

Layoffs in Nebraska

Layoffs occur when an employer temporarily or permanently reduces its workforce due to factors beyond its control (e.g., economic downturns, restructuring, or technological changes). Unlike firing, which involves termination of individual employees, layoffs often affect multiple employees simultaneously.

In Nebraska, employers must comply with federal and state laws governing layoffs, including requirements related to notice, severance pay, and benefits continuation. Employers should ensure that layoffs are conducted in a nondiscriminatory manner and that affected employees are treated fairly and respectfully.

Resignations in Nebraska

Resignation occurs when an employee voluntarily decides to end their employment relationship with an employer. Employees may resign for various reasons including finding a new job opportunity, pursuing further education, or other personal circumstances.

In Nebraska, employees are not entitled to benefit notice or severance pay when resigning, unless otherwise it is specified in the employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. However, employers should handle resignations professionally and may conduct exit interviews to gather feedback and address any concerns the departing employee may have.

Why Does a Well-Planned Termination Process Matters in Nebraska?

A well-planned termination process in Nebraska is essential for several reasons:

  • Legal Compliance: Nebraska has specific laws and regulations governing employment termination. Adhering to the state and federal laws ensures that the termination process is legally compliant, reducing the risk of potential lawsuits or legal complications for the employer.
  • Mitigating Legal Risks: Failing to follow proper termination procedures can expose employers to legal risks (e.g., wrongful termination claims or discrimination lawsuits). A well-planned termination process helps mitigate these risks by ensuring that terminations are conducted fairly and in accordance with company policies and legal requirements.
  • Preserving Company Reputation: Companies rely on their reputation to attract customers, clients, and employees. Mishandled terminations can damage a company’s reputation, leading to negative publicity and potential harm to business relationships. A well-planned termination process helps minimize the impact on the company’s reputation by handling terminations with professionalism and respect for the departing employee.
  • Employee Morale and Retention: Employees who witness or hear about poorly executed terminations may become demoralized and lose trust in their employer. This can result in decreased morale, productivity, and employee retention. Conversely, a well-planned termination process that is conducted with sensitivity and respect can help maintain employee morale and preserve relationships within the organization.
  • Compliance with Company Policies: Several companies have internal policies and procedures for handling terminations. Following these policies ensures consistency and fairness in the treatment of employees and helps maintain employee trust in the organization.

Termination Laws in Nebraska: What You Need to Know

These termination laws in Nebraska outline the specific requirements and prohibitions governing termination procedures, ensuring fairness, equality, and adherence to legal standards.

  • Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA): This act prohibits discrimination based on certain protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, marital status, or national origin in the workplace, including during the termination process. Employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on these protected characteristics, and termination decisions must be based on legitimate business reasons.
  • Nebraska Employment Security Law (NESL): This law aims to protect workers by ensuring they have some level of notice and assistance in finding new employment in the event of layoffs or plant closures. Employers must comply with certain regulations when terminating employees, such as providing advance notice of plant closings or mass layoffs, depending on the size of the business.
  • Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act (NWPCA)This law mandates that upon termination, employers must promptly pay all wages due to the employee, including any accrued vacation or PTO time, within a certain timeframe. Failure to comply with these provisions may result in penalties against the employer.
  • Nebraska Workers’ Compensation ActWhile not directly regulating termination itself, this act provides protection to employees who are injured on the job. Employers are prohibited from terminating employees in retaliation for filing workers’ compensation claims or exercising their rights under the act. This ensures that employees are not unfairly penalized for seeking compensation and medical benefits for work-related injuries.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964: This federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Termination decisions must not be based on these protected characteristics.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)The ADEA prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discriminating against individuals who are 40 years of age or older. Termination decisions cannot be made solely based on an individual’s age.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including termination. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered by this law. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities, and termination decisions must be based on job-related factors rather than disability.

In Nebraska, wrongful termination can have various legal implications for both employer and employee. Here are some key points:

  • At-Will Employment: Nebraska follows the principle of at-will employment, means that employers can generally terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not an illegal reason.
  • Exceptions to At-Will Employment (Public Policy Exceptions): Despite being an at-will employment state, there are exceptions where termination may be considered wrongful if it violates public policy or is based on discrimination. For example, terminating an employee because of their race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, or other protected characteristic is illegal under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
  • Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA): This state law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, marital status, national origin, or ancestry. Wrongful termination based on any of these protected characteristics can result in legal action against the employer.
  • Whistleblower ProtectionNebraska law also provides protection for employees who report violations of law or public policy by their employers. Terminating an employee in retaliation for whistleblowing can lead to legal consequences for the employer.
  • Contractual Agreements: If there is an employment contract in place, it may specify the conditions under which termination can occur. Wrongful termination under the terms of an employment contract can result in a breach of contract lawsuit.
  • Unemployment Benefits: Wrongful termination can also affect an employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits. If an employee is terminated for misconduct or other reasons that violate company policy, they may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.
  • Potential Legal Remedies: If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated, they may pursue legal action against their employer. Legal remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

Required Documents for Employers and Terminated Employees in Nebraska

In Nebraska, there are certain required documents and obligations for both employers and terminated employees.

Employers’ Requirements

  • Termination Notice or Letter: Employers should provide a termination notice or letter to the terminated employee. This document typically includes the reason for termination, effective date, applicable benefits, information about final pay, and details on any post-employment obligations.
  • Final Paycheck: Nebraska labor law requires employers to pay terminated employees their final wages promptly. Employers must include all earned wages, including any accrued but unused vacation or paid time off, in the final paycheck.
  • COBRA Notification: If the employer offers group health insurance benefits, they are required to provide the terminated employee with information about their rights under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). This includes details about continuing health insurance coverage at the employee’s expense following termination.
  • Unemployment Insurance Information: Employers are required to provide terminated employees with information about how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. This may include details about eligibility criteria and instructions for filing a claim with the Nebraska Department of Labor.
  • Severance Agreement: If the employer offers severance benefits as part of the termination package, a severance agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the severance package. This document includes details about the severance amount, any conditions or restrictions, and the employee’s rights and obligations.

Terminated Employees’ Requirements

  • Receipt of Returned Company Property: Terminated employees are required to return any company property (e.g., keys, access cards, laptops, smartphones, and other company equipment) upon termination. This helps ensure the security of company assets and protects sensitive information.
  • Final Paycheck: Terminated employees should ensure they receive their final paycheck from the employer in accordance with Nebraska’s wage payment laws. If there are any discrepancies or issues with the final paycheck, the employee may need to follow up with the employer or file a complaint with the Nebraska Department of Labor.
  • COBRA Enrollment: If the terminated employee wishes to continue their health insurance coverage under COBRA, they are responsible for enrolling in COBRA and paying the required premiums within the specified timeframe. Failure to enroll in a timely manner may result in loss of coverage.
  • Review of Severance Agreement: If the employer offers a severance package, the terminated employee should review the terms and conditions outlined in the severance agreement before signing. It is advisable to seek legal counsel if there are any questions or concerns about the agreement.
  • Application for Unemployment Benefits: Terminated employees who meet the eligibility criteria should promptly apply for unemployment insurance benefits through the Nebraska Department of Labor. This requirement involves filing a claim and providing relevant information about the employment termination.

Who is Responsible for Terminating in Nebraska?

In Nebraska, the responsibility for firing employees falls on the employer, but the Human Resources department, manager, and legal counsel have shared roles and responsibilities in the termination process.

Role and Responsibilities of Human Resources 

The Human Resources (HR) department plays a central role in the termination process, they are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that terminations are conducted in compliance with company policies, federal and state employment laws, and regulations.
  • Reviewing circumstances of the termination to ensure compliance with company policies and legal requirements.
  • Providing guidance and support to managers or supervisors regarding termination procedures.

Role and Responsibilities of Managers

Managers and supervisors often have direct involvement in the termination process, particularly when it comes to making the decision to terminate an employee. In the termination process, managers have the following responsibilities:

  • Conducting performance evaluations and providing feedback to employees prior to termination.
  • Communicating with HR and seeking guidance if unsure about termination procedures or legal requirements.

Role and Responsibilities of Legal Counsel

Legal counsel may be involved in the termination process to provide guidance on legal matters and ensure compliance with employment laws and regulations. Additionally, a legal counsel may also have the following responsibilities:

  • Reviewing termination decisions and procedures to identify any legal risks or compliance issues.
  • Advising the employer on the legal implications of terminating an employee, including potential risks and liabilities.
  • Assisting with drafting termination notices, separation agreements, and other legal documents.

How Long is the Termination Process in Nebraska?

The length of the termination process in Nebraska is influenced by the duration of the following:

  • Notice Period: In Nebraska, there is no requirement for employers to provide advance notice of termination, unless it is specified in an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. If a notice is required, the termination process may take longer to allow for the appropriate notice period.
  • Investigation and Documentation: Before terminating an employee, it is important for employers to conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons for termination, gather relevant documentation, and ensure compliance with company policies and legal requirements. This process could take days or weeks depending on the situation.
  • Consultation with HR and Legal Counsel: Employers may need to consult with human resources (HR) and legal counsel to ensure that the termination is conducted in compliance with employment laws and regulations. The consultation process can add additional time to the termination process.
  • Termination Meeting: The termination meeting may take place on or before the effective date of termination and may last from a few minutes to an hour. It may depend on the circumstances and the need for discussion or explanation.
  • Final Pay and Benefits: Employers are generally required to provide terminated employees with their final paycheck promptly. Processing final pay and arranging for continuation of benefits may take additional time.
  • Transition and Exit Process: Employers may need to coordinate with other departments to facilitate the departing employee’s transition, such as disabling access to company systems, retrieving company property, and notifying relevant stakeholders. This process may extend beyond the termination meeting.

How Can You Prepare for Termination in Nebraska?

Preparing for termination in Nebraska involves careful planning and adherence to legal requirements to ensure a smooth and legally compliant process. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for termination in Nebraska:

  • Review Employment Policies and Contracts: Review the company’s employment policies, employee handbook, and any relevant employment contracts or agreements to understand the procedures and requirements for termination. Employers must ensure that their termination process aligns with these documents and with Nebraska employment laws.
  • Document Performance Issues: Document any performance issues, misconduct, or behavioral concerns related to the employee being considered for termination. Maintain thorough records of performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, and any other relevant documentation to support termination decisions.
  • Consult with HR and Legal Counsel: Consult with your human resources (HR) department and legal counsel to ensure that the termination process complies with company policies and legal requirements. Seek guidance on potential legal risks and strategies for minimizing liability.
  • Consult Alternative Solutions: Before proceeding with termination, consider whether there are any alternative solutions or accommodations that could address the issues leading to termination. This may include additional training, coaching, or reassignment to a different role within the organization.
  • Prepare Termination Documentation: Prepare the necessary documentation for the termination, including a termination notice or letter outlining the reasons for termination, effective date, any severance benefits, and information about final pay and benefits continuation. Ensure that the documentation is clear, concise, and legally compliant.
  • Arrange for Termination Meeting: Schedule a private meeting with the employee being terminated to communicate the decision. Arrange for a private room for the meeting and ensure that HR or supervisor is present to witness the conversation and provide support if needed.
  • Handle Logistics and Transition: Handle logistical aspects of the termination, such as collecting company property, disabling access to company systems, and arranging for the return of personal belongings. Provide information and resources to support the employee’s transition.
  • Follow-Up and Documentation: Follow up with any post-termination tasks including notifying remaining employees, processing final pay and benefits, and updating internal records. Document the termination process, including meeting notes, correspondence, and any agreements or releases signed by the employee.
  • Evaluate and Implement: After the termination process is complete, take time to evaluate the effectiveness of the process and identify any areas for improvement. Consider conducting exit interviews with departing employees to gather feedback and insights that can help improve employment and future termination practices.

Steps for a Respectful Termination Process in Nebraska

Conducting a respectful termination process in Nebraska involves approaching the situation with empathy, professionalism, and adherence to legal requirements. Here are the steps for conducting a respectful termination process in Nebraska:

  • Review relevant company policies, employment contracts, and Nebraska employment laws to ensure compliance and understand the procedures for termination.
  • Gather documentation related to the employee’s performance, behavior, and any disciplinary actions taken.
  • Plan the logistics of the termination meeting (location, timing, and correspondence).
  • Schedule the private meeting at a time and place that allows for confidentiality and minimizes interruptions. Choose a comfortable setting to facilitate open communication.
  • Communicate the decision to terminate the employee clearly and directly. Avoid using ambiguous language.
  • Approach the termination meeting with empathy and respect for the employee’s feelings and dignity. Acknowledge the impact of the decision on the employee and express appreciation for their contributions to the organization. Listen actively to the employee’s reactions and concerns.
  • Handle logistics of the termination process. Assist the departing employee during the collection of company property.
  • Ensure that final pay and benefits are processed promptly and accurately.
  • Maintain confidentiality throughout the termination process to respect the privacy of the employee and minimize gossip or speculation among other employees.
  • Document the termination process and follow up any post-termination tasks.
  • After the termination process is complete, identify if there are any areas for improvement in the future termination practices.

Post-Termination: What Happens After Terminating Employee in Nebraska?

After terminating an employee in Nebraska, employers need to follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition and address any legal obligations:

  • Ensure that the terminated employee receives their final paycheck promptly, in accordance with Nebraska wage and hour laws.
  • Provide information to the employee about continuation of benefits and other post-employment benefits available.
  • Arrange for the return of any company property or equipment in the possession of the terminated employee. Coordinate with the employee to ensure that all company property is returned promptly and in good condition.
  • Disable the terminated employee’s access to company systems, databases, and physical premises to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive information.

Legal Considerations During Termination in Nebraska

When terminating an employee in Nebraska, employers need to be aware of and adhere to federal and state laws to avoid legal issues and potential litigation. Here are some key legal considerations during termination in Nebraska:

  • At-Will Employment: Nebraska is an at-will employment state, meaning that employers can terminate employees for any reason or not reason at all, as long as it is not discriminatory or in violation of public policy. However, employers should still ensure that terminations are handled fairly and consistently to minimize legal risks.
  • Discrimination Laws: Employers must not terminate employees based on protected characteristics such as race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, or genetic information. Terminations based on any of these factors lead to claims of discrimination under federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their state equivalents.
  • Retaliation Protections: Employers are prohibited from terminating employees in retaliation for engaging in protected activities such as filing a discrimination complaint, participating in an investigation, or exercising their rights under various employment laws. Retaliation claims can be brought under federal and state laws.
  • Final Paycheck: Nebraska law requires employers to pay employees their final wages by the next regular payday following termination or within two weeks, whichever comes first. This includes payment for all hours worked, accrued vacation time, and any other earned compensation.
  • COBRA Continuation Coverage: Employers with 20 or more employees must offer continuation coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to eligible employees and their dependents upon termination of employment. Employers must provide notice of COBRA rights to eligible employees and ensure timely enrollment.
  • Unemployment Benefits: Terminated employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits in Nebraska, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria. Employers must respond promptly and accurately to requests for information from the Nebraska Department of Labor regarding an employee’s separation from employment.
  • Employee Contracts and Agreements: Employers should review any employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, with legal counsel to ensure compliance with termination procedures and any contractual obligations.
  • Documentation and Recordkeeping: Employers should maintain accurate records documenting the reasons for termination, any disciplinary actions leading up to termination, and any communications with the employee regarding the termination. This documentation can be valuable in defending against potential legal claims.

Bonus: Best Practices for Reducing Litigation Risks in Nebraska

Reducing litigation risks related to termination is crucial for employers in Nebraska. Here are some best practices to mitigate litigation risks:

  • Establish Clear Policies and Procedures: A clear and well-documented policies and procedures for hiring, performance management, and termination. Employers must ensure all employees are aware of these policies and provide training to supervisors and managers on proper implementation.
  • Consistent Application of Policies: Apply policies and procedures consistently across all employees to avoid claims of discrimination or unfair treatment. Treat similar situations and employees similarly to maintain fairness and equity in the workplace.
  • Maintain Documentation: Maintain thorough and accurate documentation of employee performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, and any other relevant incidents leading up to termination. This documentation can provide valuable evidence in the event of a legal dispute.
  • Comply with Legal Requirements: Stay up-to-date with federal and state employment laws and regulations in Nebraska, including anti-discrimination laws, wage and hour requirements, and any industry-specific regulations. Employers need to ensure that termination decisions comply with these legal requirements.
  • Consult with HR and Legal Counsel: Employers can involve human resources (HR) professionals and legal counsel during the termination process to ensure compliance with company policies and legal obligations. Seek guidance from legal counsel when dealing with complex or sensitive termination situations.
  • Offer Severance Agreements: Consider offering severance agreements to departing employees, particularly in situations where the risk of litigation is higher. Employers must carefully draft the severance agreement
  • Conduct Exit Interviews: Conduct exit interviews with departing employees to gather feedback on their experiences and reasons for leaving. Use this information to identify any potential issues within the organization and address them proactively to prevent future litigation risks.
  • Maintain Professionalism and Respect: Conduct termination meetings in a professional and respectful manner, focusing on providing clear explanations and support to the departing employee. Employers should avoid confrontation or emotional reactions that could escalate tensions and increase the risk of litigation.
  • Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution: Explore alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation and arbitration to resolve termination-related disputes outside the courtroom. ADR can often be more efficient and cost-effective than litigation, while also preserving relationships and confidentiality.
  • Provide Post-Termination Support: Employers should provide post-termination support to departing employees (e.g., assistance with job search resources or career counseling) to help facilitate a smoother transition and reduce the likelihood of resentment and retaliation.

Final Thoughts

Firing an employee in Nebraska is a crucial step that affects both workers and employers. For employers in Nebraska, familiarizing themselves with these laws and implementing the best practices helps mitigate legal risks, promote fairness and equity in the workplace, and maintain positive employee relations.

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.