Go through a job termination checklist to make sure you cover these essential points
- You want to review the employment history with the employee briefly.
You want to comment on specific problems that have occurred and the attempt to correct those problems. And if you’ve documented the problems over time, you’re going to be able to go through the previous disciplinary actions up to that point. So if you’ve done your work with a disciplinary process when you get to the job termination, you’re going to be able to review that process. And it’s going to be pretty clear-cut.
- Tell the employee that he or she is being terminated within the first few minutes.
Don’t drag out the ultimate announcement of the job termination. It’s easy to get nervous and start the meeting with a different subject and just talk about other things. Just cut to the chase and get it done.
- Explain the job termination decision briefly and clearly.
Avoid counseling the employee at this point. This should have been done earlier. Now is not the time to do it. You’re not going to correct the problem. And you may just say something that’s going to hurt you. Don’t go down that road in the termination meeting.
- Don’t compliment the employee during a job termination meeting in an effort not to hurt his or her feelings.
We’re human first and this may be a time when you want to point out some of their strengths. While that seems a nice thing to do, it’s going to a be a problem when you terminate them while pointing out how good they are at certain things. It just doesn’t make any sense. Just don’t go there.
- Be sure the explanation given for the job termination is consistent with the truth.
What is stated as the reason for the job termination can be of great importance if litigation occurs. In some cases failing to state the true reason for the job termination or giving reasons inconsistent with those later stated has been held to be evidence of bad faith or discrimination. It’s awful to state too little or too much depending on the circumstances, so careful consideration should really be given to the completion of any documentation. If the termination involved a controversial or complicated matter you might want to obtain legal advice concerning what to say in the separation notice.
- Provide benefits explanations, forms and related documents.
Your really want HR to explain fully any benefits including rights to COBRA and unemployment compensation that the employee is entitled to receive during termination. And tell the employee when the benefits will be received. If the employee’s not going to receive certain benefits, have HR explain why. It’s a good idea to cover these types of things.
- Let the employee have an opportunity to have his or her say during the job termination.
Pay close attention to what is said. But don’t argue with the employee in an effort to justify the decision. As an employee opens up in the termination meeting, you’re going to have a sense right then and there if this person’s going to sue you. They may give you some evidence that may help you down the road. You should give them a chance to say something during the job termination meeting, and listen closely to what they say.
- The decision to terminate an employee should not be based on discriminatory reasons.
There should be a business related reason for the termination. And when an employer is firing a pregnant employee, or an older employee, a minority employee, or some other employee with a potential problem of a subsequently claim or lawsuit it’s essential when conducting the termination meeting that you not make any reference to anything that could be considered discriminatory.
- During a job termination meeting, the conversation should never include any reference to the person’s sex, age, race, religion, national origin, or disability.
And you know, that may seem obvious; it’s all too common for the topic to just come up by accident. Avoid talking about it.
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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