Losing a valued employee can be like losing a family member. Whether their death was expected or not, there are some ways in which an employer can cope with, and show respect, during this somber and tumultuous time.

It is always difficult to determine how to communicate the news to others in the company or organization. This decision needs to focus on weighing the need to inform others while at the same time respecting and showing deference to the deceased employee’s family and loved ones.

To accomplish this, we feel it is best to first reach out to the deceased employee’s family to perhaps craft a mutually agreed upon message. However, this should not be taken as an invitation to ask personal questions about the deceased employee or the circumstances about that employee’s passing. Rather, the purpose is to simply show respect and inform the family that you want to work with them to find away to communicate to the company, and others that the employee worked with outside the company, that the employee has passed away.

After the initial communication, employers should work diligently to transition the deceased employee’s duties to others. Managers should determine who can take on the employee’s work based on the type of position they held and the level of responsibility they had within the company.

Another important matter to attend to is handling the deceased employee’s final pay. Very likely the deceased employee will have some wages that accrued before their passing, and while it is clear that such wages must be paid, it may not be obvious whom an employer might (or must) pay. Generally, the payment will either be made to a surviving spouse or the deceased’s estate. However, situations vary and employers are encouraged to consult with legal counsel if they are not certain when to pay those wages and to whom.

In addition, employers are encouraged to notify their health insurance provider. If the deceased employee had employer provided health insurance, the company or organization should contact its insurance company to discuss how to properly terminate the employee’s insurance policy. This conversation should also involve human resources and perhaps legal counsel because an employee death may qualify the deceased employee’s family for COBRA. That way, the employee’s spouse and children may continue to receive certain benefits for a specified period.

Employees often become like family and the loss of an employee can hit home for everyone within the company or organization. Handling necessary matters impacted by that employee’s passing in an ethical and respectful way is vital.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding how to best with this unfortunate situation in your workplace, the Employment Law Group at Quinlivan & Hughes is can help.