By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A report put out by talent management firm Cornerstone OnDemand, published last month in Bloomberg Business, found that so-called toxic employees, those who harassed coworkers, falsified documents, or otherwise were belligerent in the workplace make coworkers miserable. Or, as they say in the law, duh.

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Legal sarcasm aside, the report found that even one toxic employee to every twenty people in the workplace makes coworkers 54 times more likely to quit their job, leading to significant replacement costs.

A cheap way to avoid replacing nontoxic workers? Fire the toxic worker. But people wonder: can you fire someone who, though competent, is so irritating you want to choke him?

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Yes.

Unless someone has an employment contract or is party to a collective bargaining agreement, he’s an employee at will. That means he can be fired at any time for any reason, just not a discriminatory reason.

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Firing someone because he’s genuinely annoying isn’t discriminatory. Even annoying people have families to feed and firing someone isn’t something to take lightly. But if your choice is to fire someone or to choke him, or replace the people who quit because of him, it’s perfectly legal to go with the pink slip.