Employee terminations for unethical or illegal conduct

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

Employee terminations start with through investigation

    Employee terminations are generally done for three main reasons:

    • Illegal or unethical conduct
    • Poor performance or unacceptable workplace conduct
    • Reduction in force or a job elimination
    • .

    Obviously, before making a decision as to whether someone’s conduct has been illegal or unethical, you’re going to need to investigate the allegations of the conduct. If you’ve got a written policy governing the conduct, that policy should be followed. If you determine, in good faith that the alleged conduct actually occurred, you will then need to determine how to proceed. At this point, it’s again important to think about whether the issue has come up in the past and how it’s been handled. Remember the importance of consistency when dealing with employee terminations.

    Investigate the allegations
    Under certain circumstances, it may take you some time to investigate an issue. If the investigation ultimately reveals sufficient evidence that the employee engaged in wrong-doing, you’ll tell that employee that they have been terminated. If the investigation does not reveal sufficient evidence, then you’ll bring that person back. Sometimes an investigation will reveal an infraction for which employee terminations aren’t justified, but the infraction still warrants disciplinary action. You’ll be documenting all of that so that when the next inappropriate conduct event occurs, you’ll have all that background documentation and you won’t have an empty file when you’re going to further discipline or terminate that person.

    Avoid confusion about what people did or said and provide defense material
    Good documentation of an investigation serves two purposes: it helps avoid confusion or misunderstanding about what people are alleging or denying or saying during the investigation; and it will help the company defend if the investigation is challenged in court. So one document you create during an investigation are notes.

    Document everything with employee terminations
    An essential component of documenting investigations are the memos you’re going to be preparing that reflect the substance of your interviews. Frequently those memos are based upon your notes. Your notes should include the facts. What did people say? What did people do? What did people see? What did people hear other people say? Your notes should not include your assumptions or guesses about what the interviewee means.

    They should not include your preliminary conclusions about how someone is acting. If you think someone is lying, for example, note the particular responses that you believe would support such a conclusion. Your notes should also include observable facts about the demeanor and behavior of the interviewee. If the person starts crying, if the person won’t look you in the eye, and you think that’s significant, write it down. Notes should not include your subjective conclusions about demeanor and behavior.

    When your investigation is complete, you should have a written record of the employee terminations investigation that would answer three questions asked by anyone not personally involved in the investigation.

    1. What did you do to investigate the matter brought to your attention?
    2. What did you conclude actually happened?
    3. Why is that conclusion reasonable?

    To answer those questions you’re going to have a final investigation file.

    Remember, we’re talking about documentation leading up to employee terminations. You’re going to have a file on this stuff. It’s going to include all the documents you need, but only those documents you need. Ordinarily, the file is going to include things like written communications from the employee who raised the issue, an issue confirmation memo back to that employee or a suspension notice. If you have any other memos, they should be in there, an investigation summary, the results and notifications, if there are any. Any notes you took and support documentation, e-mails, etc., things that you will need later to demonstrate that you acted in good faith if you’re ever questioned about the situation or any employee terminations that came about as a result of it.

    Some other things to keep in mind. You should throw out any drafts and just keep the final versions of the documents. You should keep your notes. Computer files and e-mails are also documents, so any relevant files and e-mails should be printed out and kept in the file These are important documents that you’ll need and are part of employee terminations.

    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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