Protecting Employers Since 1985

May 2012

By: Nancy E. Joerg, Esq.

Many employers do not feel comfortable firing employees because they are not sure they understand the “legal rules” pertaining to terminating (also called discharging or laying off) an employee in Illinois. Be fully prepared (and confident) by reviewing the valuable list below.

In Illinois (other states often have different laws relating to termination), the following basic legal rules apply (unless an employment contract, employee handbook, or union relationship dictates otherwise):

1) No notice at all is required.

2) No reason of any kind must be given.

3) No severance must be given.

4) Earned but unused vacation must be paid out.

5) No deductions may be made from final paycheck except where there is a voluntary written agreement on the part of the employee.

6) No letters of reference are required.

7) No written termination letters are required.

8) If severance is given, the severance will not be subtracted from any unemployment insurance the ex-employee may get.

9) If you fire an employee before he/she works for you for a total of 30 working days, your company will not be “charged” for that ex-employee’s unemployment insurance benefits.

10) A company does not need documentation or warnings to fire an employee, but it is sometimes wise to do so. Carefully plan and discuss all proposed terminations to evaluate risk and lower the company’s legal liability. Seek the skilled help of an experienced employment lawyer in the case of a high risk termination.

Questions? Call Attorney Nancy E. Joerg of Wessels Sherman’s St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email her at

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