What are the Different Legal Grounds for Dismissal?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2020
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Violating a company's policies on numerous occasions despite warnings can provide grounds for dismissal. A person can usually be terminated if she breaks a law or is found intoxicated while working in a capacity where she could endanger herself or others. In some cases, a person may be forced to vacate her position because she has reached the age of retirement.

Many companies have clearly outlined discipline procedures that act as effective tools in reducing the number of unfair termination claims. A discipline procedure may include issuing a verbal warning and two written warnings and then terminating a person upon the fourth offense. In such a case, if an employee violates company policies on multiple occasions and the stated discipline procedure is adhered to, there are grounds for dismissal.

In many jurisdictions, theft provides legal grounds for dismissal. If there is adequate proof that a particular employee is guilty of stealing, she may be terminated even if there have been no previous warnings. The same principle normally applies if other laws are broken. Employers should be careful, however, and realize that employees usually cannot be immediately terminated for mere speculation.


Intoxication often provides grounds for dismissal. Though this includes illegal drugs, the intoxicating substances does not always have to be illegal. If a person is drunk or heavily under the influence of prescription drugs, such as medicinal marijuana, and she works in a capacity such as driving a company vehicle or operating heavy machinery, she may be terminated due to the safety risks that she poses.

If a person loses her qualifications for a particular job, there are also usually legal grounds for dismissal. For example, a law firm may fire a disbarred lawyer because she is no longer able to fulfill her role. In these cases, the requirement that a person can no longer meet must generally be set by a legal authority. That a sales person can no longer meet quotas, for instance, would not generally be considered a legal loss of qualifications, although selling goods and services was the reason he was hired.

In most situations, terminating a person's employment because of age is not permitted due to discrimination laws. Reaching retirement age may provide legal grounds for dismissal in some cases, however. According to some laws, termination is permissible for this reason if a person has access to a retirement plan that will provide a certain amount of benefits and the individual holds a certain type of position. Dismissal based on retirement age may also be permitted where there are laws requiring people to vacate certain positions upon reaching the age of retirement.


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