The decision to terminate an employee is something employers should not take lightly and should approach cautiously. The act of telling an employee of his or her termination may invite legal pitfalls if the employer acts improperly. Ending an employee’s employment in a spontaneous manner that may be viewed as unfair could motivate the employee to seek legal recourse, perhaps on the grounds of a state law violation for wrongful termination or a violation of federal civil rights law. If it is necessary to terminate an employee’s employment, an employer should do so in a respectful, instructive, and efficient manner. An employer may have a better chance of avoiding litigation due to a termination by taking the following steps.
Be ready to answer questions
Sometimes an employee is aware of possible termination because the employer has communicated with the employee about the employee’s poor job performance. Nonetheless, receiving the actual notice can be upsetting, and an employee will likely have questions for the employer. This is something employers should plan for in advance. Being prepared with answers to possible questions may help an employer be clear and respectful when it comes time to discuss the termination with the employee.
Keep the meeting concise
A termination notification should not drag out for too long. An employer should be able to convey the news and answer questions within a reasonable amount of time. Extending the conversation could turn into a debate or an argument that might rile up passions and cause either the employee, employer, or both, to say something that is unnecessary.
Avoid making it personal
Sticking to the facts and remaining objective should be the goal of employers during the termination process. Bringing up personal matters or subjective observations could make the employee feel his or her termination is being motivated by illegal or improper purposes. To avoid this, employers must remain objective when communicating reasons for the termination. Additionally, it is important to have a good disciplinary and termination policy in place in an employer’s employee handbook. Having this will likely make the termination process go more smoothly, as the employer will have a policy or policies to refer the employee to during the termination meeting to help the employee better understand why his or her employment is being terminated. Employers should also follow the disciplinary policies outline in their employee handbooks to ensure expectations are clearly communicated and met.
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