Before you fire an employee, discipline and documentation come first

by on May 28, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

There needs to be an overall consistency in the process when you fire an employee

If you’ve got a poor performer or somebody that’s got behavior or attendance problems, you’re going to want to document it before you fire that employee. I know that disciplining an employee is one of the most difficult tasks that a supervisor must perform, of course, next to having to fire an employee. Having said that, do not avoid it just because it’s unpleasant.

Because a wait and see or the things will get better approach, normally only adds to the problem, it just prolongs the agony. In addition, the co-employees are going to resent that another employee appears to be getting away with something and thus it might create additional morale problems. So by counseling or disciplining an employee as soon as an issue arises, you will be able to dictate the course of the proceedings for the existing problem and for subsequent problem employees.

Confront the problems before you fire an employee
By confronting that person, things may improve immediately. And that’s usually you’re goal. Because finding new talent can be expensive and fixing a problem with an existing employee is always a good option compared to firing an employee. However, by preparing the appropriate documentation, you’re going to have an easier time firing that employee if it comes to a point where the employee isn’t improving their behavior or performance.

With respect to much of the employee discipline that you’re going to impose, as well as when you have to an employee, HR should be involved. This would depend somewhat on the level at which employee discipline is being imposed; if it’s a really low level issue, it may not be necessary to bring in HR. But involving HR ensures consistency, and thus helps to minimize disparate treatment claims. A disparate treatment claim is essentially a claim where someone alleges that he or she was treated differently based on a protected category, race, color, religion, etc.

If HR’s involved when you fire an employee, they can monitor the situation to make sure that the overall consistency is there. Involving HR also gives you a second opinion from a neutral, unbiased source. Because if you’re the manager or supervisor, and you’ve been dealing with this day in and day out, it’s good to have somebody who’s removed from the situation who can look at it objectively and ask questions about the situation before you fire an employee.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: How to Document Terminations So You Won’t Lose a Lawsuit by Alyssa Senzel given on June 7, 2006

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