Terminating employees in other circumstances: Performance issues, layoffs or resignation.

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

Make sure your paperwork is in order when terminating employees, no matter the reason

If you’re terminating employees based on performance issues or poor conduct, you’re going to have your evaluations and you’re going to have your disciplinary memos. When discharging an employee based on performance issues or unacceptable conduct, before you terminate them, you should review the policy in your handbook to see that you’re following whatever policy it is.

Compare and review
Compare this infraction to prior instances at the company involving similar situations. Review the existing documents in the personnel file, be sure it is accurate and updated. There should be an impartial second opinion from HR, upper level management or another supervisor, and if you’ve got a disciplinary policy, you want to determine whether or not that’s been followed prior to terminating employees.

RIF’s and Job Eliminations
If you’ve got a reduction in force or job elimination, for example, your company has a downsizing or needs to eliminate a position; you might have to let someone go. When you’re choosing to discharge an employee based on job elimination or a risk, you should be sure to set specific factors for terminating employees. Those factors should be applied uniformly. There have been many, many situations where a company is very haphazard about how they’re terminating employees.

That often doesn’t end well for the company because employees come back and claim they were not treated consistently. So make sure that you’re applying your factors consistently and uniformly when terminating employees.

Termination checklists
If you are going to pay severance to a discharged employee, you should insist on getting a release of claim. If you’re terminating employees over forty years old, that release needs to contain specific language and must meet additional requirements in order to be legally enforceable under the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act. The OWBPA has a lot of requirements. It requires that you give somebody over forty 21 days to consider whether they’re going to sign the agreement. If it’s a group termination you’ve got to give them 45 days. They’ve got seven days to revoke that signature.

I want to just do a reality check. Prior to making decisions about terminating employees, always review the handbook or policy at issue, determine what the company has done in the past under similar circumstances, determine whether this employee has been disciplined in the past, and determine whether the past discipline has been documented.

Employee termination letters
Last, but not least, termination documentation. If the employee is resigning, get a letter of resignation. You want to get a reaffirmation of confidentiality, if that person has signed a confidentiality agreement or otherwise has confidential information, you want in writing that they understand they have to keep our information confidential.

You’ll probably want to do a check list to make sure that all property has been returned, all credit cards have been cancelled, etc. If you’re doing an exit interview, you’ll probably do an exit interview form, and then a separation of release agreement if you’re going to be giving someone severance. Those are the basics of terminating employees all the way from the very beginning of the hiring process through to the bitter end.

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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