Human resource managers and the legal counsel working with them likely know who the worst performers are at the company. They likely have a good sense of which employees they would terminate first for performance-related issues if it ever came time to make that decision. When the time does come, it is advisable to consider the following items before implementing the termination decision.
First, an unsurprising caution: all terminations come with risk. The quip that every employee falls into some protected characteristic, including even the white male employee who is under the age of 40 and without any disability, is technically true. There are, of course, degrees of risk associated with terminations. Knowing the contractual obligations a company has with an employee, as well as which protected characteristics are applicable to individual employees, will help quantify and manage that risk.