Employee Termination the Right Way
As an employer, you may have to face the unfortunate task of firing an employee. Terminating an employee the right way can mean the difference between years of expensive litigation and a clean break.
Here are some tips the experts at Optimum Employer Solutions, a Professional Employer Organization in Orange County, CA, suggest for getting that clean break when faced with the issue of employee termination:
Leading up to termination:
- Maintain a Good Paper Trail – As an employer, it is important that you maintain a paper trail of supporting information for your decision to terminate an employee. This includes performance evaluations and any behavioral issues. If you have to issue warnings to an employee, be sure to document it. When giving a warning, include language like, “continued behavior will result in further discipline and could lead to termination.” If an employee hires an attorney to sue for wrongful termination, these documents will help you out.
- Create a Master Check List – One of the easiest ways to ensure the process of terminating an employee runs smoothly is to have a checklist. This list will outline the process you should follow, as well as the documents you need to provide to your employee. In addition, it will help you stay organized during the firing process. A checklist will also ensure that each terminated employee is treated the same. This will help you protect yourself and your business by ensuring you comply with any legal rules and regulations. By having a process and guide in place, you will save yourself and your employee a lot of stress.
- Have a Good Reason for Termination – You may live in a state that has “at-will” employment. Meaning, you have the option to terminate an employee without establishing “just cause”. However, it is in your best interest to have just cause and explain it to your employee. If an employee decides to take you to court, a jury will want to know why you fired the employee. When you have a good reason and reiterate it, the chances of the employee winning the suit decrease. In case you have not already, ensure your employee handbook lists termination as a penalty for specific actions. This way the employee will know ahead of time that certain actions could result in them being let go, and that he or she should avoid them.
During the termination process:
- Consider Offering Severance – It is important to note that severance is not required when terminating an employee. However, offering severance can help you achieve a clean break with an employee. Consider offering an employee severance if he or she is waiving any legal claims against the company. If this is a good option for your company, be sure to consult legal counsel to make sure you are in full legal compliance.
- Tell the Truth – As you begin the process of terminating an employee, you may feel like you should soften the blow. Perhaps you tell the employee that they are being let go rather than fired. While it may seem like you are sparing the employees’ feelings, in reality, you will have a hard time explaining why someone is being hired to fill the vacancy. You should also avoid placing blame, such as “this was not my decision. It came from so-and-so.” Vague answers or lies could have a confused former employee turning to an attorney for help.
- Keep the Termination Meeting Quick and Simple – To help you achieve a clean break, try to keep the termination meeting to a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes. During this time, ensure that the employee understands why he or she is being terminated. While the employee should have a chance to respond, make sure that the situation does not escalate into an argument or a violent situation.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
The team at Optimum Employer Solutions is here to help you with the hiring and terminating process. While we do not choose your employees, we can offer assistance when on- and off-boarding them. We also write handbooks, job descriptions, and policies so you can proactively reduce your risk as an employer. If you have questions about the termination process or need help ensuring you are in compliance with laws and protected from litigation, contact us today.