Lawyers and Quiet Firing

By Taylor Burton Published on June 28, 2023

Estimated reading time: 4 Minutes

In the past year, we've covered the relationship between lawyers and quiet quitting, as well as lawyers and quiet hiring. It's time to complete the trifecta with a third recently coined term that grew from the quiet quitting phenomenon: quiet firing. But what exactly is quiet firing--and is it legal?

Keeping true to the pattern of these terms, there is no actual firing taking place. In fact, quiet firing is a manager's attempt to get an employee to quit their job through poor treatment. It's a form of manipulation used so employers can avoid negative publicity and paying for unemployment. 

If you're wondering what the signs of quiet firing are, you've come to the right place. If you're an employment lawyer, it's crucial to educate yourself on this matter--83% of workers are said to have experienced quiet firing in some form. Let's dive even deeper.




You may recall an episode from the hit comedy Seinfeld, where George Costanza's boss attempts to make him quit his job by turning off his AC, spiking his food, and eventually boarding up the door to his office. While this is a good (if somewhat exaggerated) example of quiet firing, it mostly presents itself in more subtle ways. 

If you're consistently excluded from meetings or given impossible workloads to contend with, this could be a sign of your manager attempting to make life more difficult for you. Alternatively, they could reduce your responsibilities and slowly move you away from the job duties you were hired for. Your opinions and ideas may be ignored, you may not receive credit for your accomplishments, or you might be passed over for new opportunities. Your salary will most likely remain stagnant for years while requests for raises and bonuses go ignored. In a nutshell, it might feel like your boss is setting you up to fail.

With the many forms quiet firing takes, it might be difficult to spot. Maybe your employer is not even trying to fire you and they just have a habit of mistreating employees. The signs are not usually obvious right away, but come into focus after a continuing pattern of disrespect. If all of this sounds familiar to you, trust your gut. It's time to take action.




Do you feel you are the victim of quiet firing? The best thing you can do is gather evidence and open up communication. Talk to your HR department and make sure they're aware of what's going on.

If that yields no results, it's time to talk to a lawyer. Quiet firing outright might not be illegal, but harassment and bullying in the workplace is. If you feel you've been discriminated against because of your age, race, sex, or other protected characteristics, you definitely have a case. It may be tempting to feel demoralized and simply quit your job, but fighting back is always an option. Standing up for yourself to put an end to this unethical trend might even improve the well-being of your fellow coworkers or future employees.

If you're a lawyer, be prepared with legal advice on this all-too-common situation and know what the right course of action is. Quiet firing is a somewhat new term and not mentioned in law, but the behaviors exhibited are unethical. The proof will need to be in hard documents gathered over time.


Close up image of businesswoman hands signing documents


Quiet quitting, hiring, and firing...though the terms are fresh, what they stand for has been around for ages. At their roots is the same underlying issue: a dissatisfying workplace culture. The fact that these situations now have names is a good sign. It means we're keeping the conversation going. Since the pandemic, employees have been closely examining their work-life balance, happiness, and what their career means to them.

Now that you've cultivated an awareness of these three terms, you may become more adept at spotting them within the workplace and figuring out what to do from there. And if you're a manager or in a position of power, make sure you're taking steps to create a positive work environment full of content employees.

Wondering how to do that? Then look forward to our future blog posts; an upcoming series all about how to be a mindful manager!