Participants, documentation, and what is said are vital in employee termination
The degree of discipline is reasonably related to the seriousness of the offence. Employee termination needs to take into the consideration the employee’s work record and length of service. You need to consider just how serious the offense actually was to warrant employee termination. Consider an employee’s loyalty to the company and their work record. So even though an employee might have committed an offense, try to balance it against other factors as well.
The employer should ensure that all potentially applicable procedures contained in the employee handbook or other policies that your company may have are followed for the employee termination. So assuming you’ve given the due process how do you effectively communicate the termination decision?
Who should attend an employee termination proceeding
First, there should be at least two representatives of management present and the employee’s union representative, if you are a unionized company and the employee’s a member of the union during the employee termination process. You really want to get HR involved. You don’t want to handle this yourself. If you don’t have an HR Department or a designated HR person, get another management team member to do it with you.
The time and place for communicating the employee termination should be carefully selected to minimize potential disruption at the workplace and embarrassment of the employee. Plan this out in advance.
Document the employee termination proceeding
Everything that is said should be carefully documented after the employee termination proceedings. Tell the employee the reason he or she is being terminated. Tell the truth and avoid shorter coding. Be compassionate without being apologetic. An apology can be interpreted as recognition of uncertainty or guilt.
Excessive detail is not required and really should be avoided in the employee termination proceeding, because it increases the chance of the “he-said, she-said” situation. We’re human first and there’s a tendency to feel bad and want to just too kind of keep talking and maybe smooth things over. Don’t do it. As much as you may want to fall into that it’s a bad idea to get involved in that kind of exchange. Keep away from excessive detail.
Allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to express his or her feelings. Encouraging the employee to be candid regarding any perceived decisions he sees in his or her treatment and/or how your company operates, and listen closely to what the employee says. Be prepared to answer reasonable questions.
Don’t try and answer questions that you’re not prepared to answer. Keep in mind that a decision has been made regarding the employee termination, and you don’t necessarily have to answer questions you don’t feel comfortable with or aren’t certain how to answer. Be prepared for, you know, a possible firing line of questions and be ready to nip those in the bud if you’re not prepared to answer them, don’t try and do them on the spot.
Regarding the use of procedures that allow an internal challenge to the employee termination rather than through litigation. If your company has a complaint or grievance procedure, don’t help them out by giving them a handbook complaint to the page, and telling them they should do this. But if they seem very disgruntled, you might casually, or gently suggest there are other internal procedures to review the decision. If matters like this can be worked out internally, maybe you’re going to avoid litigation externally.
Prepare to address various logistical matters during the employee termination, such as severance pay, health insurance continuation, final pay, a letter of reference, confidentiality, return of company property and potential deductions for loans or damages. And most of those are probably HR-type issues which is another very good reason to have the HR involved in terminations. But to some extent, should be up on these topics and ready to address them. Because these are very common questions that you may get, and issues that may arise in termination proceedings.
This is the edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar “Firing Employees Without Getting Sued -What Supervisors Really Need To Know” by Laura Liss, Esq. held on October 5, 2006.
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