Is it legal to get fired by text message?
I was recently asked on Facebook whether it is illegal for a boss to fire someone by text message with no notice. The answer is: sometimes.
First of all, many states have rules requiring a certain form of notice to be given to the employee when fired (or shortly after). For example, in Georgia the employer is required by OCGA Section 34-8-190(c) to give an employee a Separation Notice,
Form 800 at the time of termination. This form notifies employees of the reasons for termination and any severance pay. In Tennessee, a very similar form is required by Rule 0800-09-01-.02 of the Tennessee Employment Security Law, but the employer has 24 hours after the termination to provide it. In Louisiana, a similar form (LWC 77) must be filled out and mailed to the employee's last known address within three days after termination.
There is no such form required by Mississippi law.
However, if the employees have formed a union at the worksite, the employer is (almost always) required to give formal pre-termination notice to the union and bargain with the union about it. This was the holding of the NLRB in Alan Ritchey and Total Security Management. (Caution: the current GC may be targeting these cases for reversal.)
In addition, by state law, there are a variety of government employees in Mississippi that are entitled to formal advance notice of termination, from public teachers to municipal to state employees. (See prior post.)
Finally, there is the federal WARN Act and COBRA. The WARN Act requires that employers with more than 100 employees must give 60 days advance notice if they lay off 50 or more employees in a month (with certain exceptions). COBRA notice must be given to most employees with health insurance through the employer within three months after termination.
This review is not comprehensive, and there may be other reasons that it is unlawful to fire an employee by text message depending on the particular situation. But in general, the bottom line is that - unless there is a particular law against it - there is nothing to prevent an employer from firing an employee by text message and without any prior or subsequent formal notice.
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