Can an Employee Be Fired for Negligence?

Individual companies may define negligence in different ways, but most of them include negligence as an acceptable reason to discharge an employee. Federal and state laws allow employers to terminate employment with cause, and most do consider employee negligence valid cause for dismissal.

Wrongful Termination

Federal law stipulates an employer can't fire an individual based on age, gender, religion, color, race, national origin or disability. The law also prohibits employers from firing employees because their wages were garnished, or if they refused to break a law. Furthermore, an employer can't fire an employee because he had jury duty, is serving in the military or took time off to vote or under the Family and Medical Leave Act. An employer also can't fire an employee for reasonably exercising union rights or exercising employee rights granted under law. An employee who experiences a wrongful termination may be able to file a lawsuit against his employer.

Company Policy

Employers must also abide by company policy when firing employees. If the termination violates the stipulations of the policy, the employee can sue the company for wrongful termination. Most company policies require employers to have just cause for any firings, and most will have a list for what it considers valid reasons for termination.


Negligence occurs when an employee is not reasonably cautious or behaves irresponsibly while performing his duties. Depending on the vocation, negligence may result in poor service, damage to property or, in the case of heath care workers, the injury or death of a patient. Because a customer or patient may be able to sue the company for an employee's negligence, most companies consider it a valid reason for discharging an employee.


An employee whose employer terminates him for negligence may qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, depending on state law. In some states, a person fired for minor negligence can still qualify for benefits. However, if the employee was grossly negligent, caused a large amount of damage or injury, or was a repeat offender, the state may deny his unemployment claim.

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