Terminations…Make Sure You Do It Right
Terminating an employee is one of the most unpleasant tasks a manager or supervisor will face during their career. In addition to the emotional strain, there are always legal risks which mean careful preparation and deliberation must be made before any termination occurs. Since terminations are inevitable, we will take a look at a few helpful tips to keep your company compliant and streamline the process as much as possible.
The very first thing you should consider is creating a checklist. Using a good checklist before termination will help keep you consistent and could help you avoid unwanted legal action from the employee. Here are some of the questions that should be on your list:
◾Is the termination timely?
◾Does the punishment fit the “crime”?
◾Are the Company’s policies and procedures being followed?
◾Is the employee a member of a protected class?
◾Is there clear, objective documentation to support the termination?
◾Is the decision to terminate consistent with previous actions taken with employees in similar situations?
Your checklist should also include reminders to follow up on possible obligations your employee may have to the company, reminders for actions needed to disable the employee’s future access to your systems, and reminders to ensure that your legal obligations to the former employee are met in a timely manner following the termination.
Once you have decided to move forward with the termination, you will have to notify the employee. Before you meet with your employee, however, gather all your supporting documentation. This could include but not be limited to annual performance reviews; Performance Improvement Plans; write-ups for conduct, company violations and/or documented performance issues; company policies and procedures, etc. These documents should not only provide evidence of sufficient grounds for termination but also make it clear and concise for the employee.
If your documentation is weak, or if you have any concerns that this termination carries an unusual risk of liability, consult an employment attorney or the legal services provided as part of your Employment Practices Liability insurance coverage before conducting the termination meeting.
Once you are comfortable moving forward with the termination, plan to conduct the meeting in person and have at least one other person present in case the situation goes bad. If you have a Human Resources Department, it is best to have a representative from HR present at the termination. However, another manager or supervisor would also suffice. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to include a manager for whom the employee has animosity. Hold the meeting in a private and neutral location if at all possible. Choose a time early in the day and week if you can. Keep the meeting short, about 10 minutes. You should present a polite, concise statement as to the final decision and what they should expect next. Those next steps should address the final paycheck, benefits (COBRA), removal of personal property as well as return of company property. Never use this meeting for conducting an exit interview. Exit interviews are most helpful and best utilized for voluntary terminations.
Termination meetings can become very emotional for the employee. You will need to keep calm and collected, especially when the employee’s reaction gets tense. Avoid displays of emotion such as yelling, pointing blame or using forceful words. Remember to treat the employee with dignity and respect as this could be a very scary and emotional time for the employee.
Lastly, it is always best practice to escort them out of the office and off of the premises to avoid any unwanted conflicts.
In most cases terminations are a necessary evil. By following these tips it could help your organization manage terminations in a professional and consistent manner while also reducing the likelihood of a wrongful termination lawsuit.