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What is summary dismissal?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2024 | Labor And Employment

When you hire an employee, you hope they will give their best to your business and, in return, you will reward them for a job well done. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an employee to cross the line. If this happens, you may dismiss them on the spot. 

Dismissing an employee on the spot is also known as summary dismissal. But when exactly is it justified?

Understanding summary dismissal

Whereas Mississippi is an at-will employment state, employers are expected to take certain steps like issuing a warning before letting an employee go. However, there are instances when this might not happen. Summary dismissal happens when an employer terminates the employment contract without warning or notice or compels an employee to resign. 

So, when can you summarily dismiss an employee?

The decision to end the employment contract summarily is a big one. Handled improperly, the employee in question might file a wrongful termination claim. And if they have their way, this can cost your business a lot of money, not to mention reputational damage. 

That said, summary dismissal is generally an option if an employee’s behavior amounts to gross misconduct. Here are examples of employee actions that can amount to gross misconduct and, thus, justify summary dismissal:

  • Reporting to work while under the influence of alcohol
  • Assaulting other employees
  • Fraud
  • Theft of the company’s assets
  • Reckless behavior that causes an imminent threat to self and co-workers
  • Blatant refusal to follow reasonable and lawful instructions

Basically, whether an employee’s conduct justifies summary dismissal or not depends on the context of the conduct in question as well as the specific terms of the employment contract. For instance, an employee who drinks at a work party may not be punished for this. However, if an employee who operates dangerous equipment like motor vehicles or cranes reports to work drunk, you need to act. 

Summary dismissal is one of the most difficult actions an employer can ever take against an employee. Find out how you can protect your rights and interests while terminating an employment contract on grounds of gross misconduct.