In a time when employment lawsuits are prevalent (with juries usually finding in favor of the employee), it is best to be as careful as possible before terminating an employee.

As a manager or HR professional, you should take all the necessary precautions to protect your company or employer. What are the right circumstances that are allowable to take action?

Make sure you have all you bases covered. Take a look at the main reasons an employee should be terminated and the ways to back up each of those reasons:

Incompetence. The employee has not been able to fulfill the duties of their job. They cannot meet the goals you have given them and those goals are within reason to meet. There may be several reasons for this failure to meet goals, so be sure to consistently track them and document everything you can. Make sure to give warnings that the employee signs to acknowledge that they are not meeting goals successfully.

Harassment of other employees. Not only is this the law but usually against company policies as well so you will have this going for you. If your employee is harassing another person, discrimination against another in a way that damages the other person’s job or goes against the confidentiality of the company then you will have very solid grounds to terminate. Again, make sure to document everything.

Abandoning the job. If the employee does not show up for three days straight without any warning, that is considered job abandonment and you have grounds for dismissal. If it is not as easy as that, you should have an employee absenteeism policy in place to fall back on.

Putting safety at risk. This includes others as well as themselves. If you have a violent employee, you need to make sure you carefully terminate them for the safety of other employees as well as yourself. There are warning signs that you can look for if you think that an employee may become violent. There are some measures you can take to document and take action if you have a violent employee.

Drugs and alcohol. There are so many different scenarios that can happen if your employee is caught doing drugs or drinking alcohol on the job — and it is up to your discretion how to handle it based on the level of abuse of those substances or how they are affecting the company.

Theft. This could be theft of property, confidential information, or trade secrets. Make sure you have proof if you accuse an employee of theft. Take every measure to document the theft depending on what it is. It may be as easy as catching them on camera, but sometimes it is a theft that is much more discrete and complex, such as embezzling money or copying documents from the company. You should take every precaution to protect your organization.

Are you prepared to legally fire your employee? If not, make sure you get to that point before taking action.