Employee termination investigations: The basis for the decisions
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Employee termination investigations: The basis for the decisions

Investigate all factors before making your employee termination decision

Investigation is really a key component here because you don’t want to act without really making sure that you’ve got a basis for your employee termination decision and you’re acting in good faith by terminating the employee accused of misconduct.

Document the investigation

Good documentation of the employee termination investigation serves two purposes. It helps avoid confusion or misunderstanding about what people are alleging or denying or saying during an investigation. And it ultimately helps an employer defend an investigation if ever challenged in court.

Because an essential component of documentation and investigation for the employee termination are the memos, you’re going to prepare notes reflecting the substance of your interviews. And those notes are going to be based in large parts upon the notes that you take or that someone else takes during those interviews.

What should be included in the employee termination investigation notes?

Notes should include the facts about what people said, about what people did, about what people observed and about what people heard other people say. Notes should include observable facts about the demeanor and behavior of the interviewee. Notes should not include your own assumptions or guesses. Notes should not include your subjective conclusions about demeanor and behavior.

Be able to answer these three questions

When you’re investigation is complete, you should have a written record that would answer three questions by anyone who was not personally involved in the employee termination 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 and made in good faith?

So, to answer those questions, you’re going to have a final investigation file that would include all the documents you need, but only the documents you need. Ordinarily, the file will include documents such as if somebody complained about an issue in writing, you should have that written communication, an issue confirmation memo back to the complaining employee just making sure that you understand what you’re looking into. Obviously if your investigation concludes with the employee termination, all documents relating to that should be on file as well

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar “Effective Termination Techniques -How to Document Terminations So You Won’t Lose a Lawsuit” by Alyssa Senzel October 24, 2007

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