Firing an employee is a tough decision, but sometimes it needs to be done. And sometimes it needs to be done immediately, or it risks becoming much more complicated and costly.

Say you discover an employee is stealing from the company. Do you fire him right away, or give him another chance? You can terminate him immediately for “serious misconduct”, but this needs to be done within one week of learning of the theft. Wait too long and he’ll be owed all sorts of compensation for wrongful termination.

Seems harsh? Wouldn’t it be better to give him another chance to see if he improves? Well, the idea is that if you keep an employee you know has been engaging in serious misconduct around for too long after knowing of the problem, it can’t be all that serious of a problem. It also prevents the employer from digging up some minor offense from a long time ago and claiming it’s “serious misconduct.”

Knowing what the law requires and having procedures in place BEFOREHAND is the best way to avoid the clock expiring. By the time you’ve consulted with headquarters and gotten a legal opinion, it’s probably already too late.

Again, it’s a tough decision – you often want to give the employee the benefit of the doubt or see if he’ll change his ways. But when it needs to be done, the law really pushes employers to pull the trigger right away.