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How to Fire an Employee, Part 2: The Termination

Posted on in Terminating Employees

Arlington Heights business law attorneyA few weeks ago, a post on this blog explored the challenges in making the decision to terminate an employee who is no longer a good fit for your company. That post highlighted the importance of careful record keeping and rational decision-making so that you could protect yourself in the event of possible legal action. The second and final stage of the termination process, however, is the termination itself, and letting an employee go must be done in such a way that both the rights of the employee and your company are protected.

Meet Face to Face

While it may be uncomfortable for you, your employee deserves the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting in most cases. Try to avoid terminating an employee over the phone, through text message, or even via a letter. There may be some exceptions, such as worker with habitual attendance problems, but an in-person meeting is appropriate far more often than not.

Be Clear With Your Words

Some people struggle with confrontation, and firing an employee is not easy. You may be tempted to use euphemisms or “beat around the bush” so as to spare the person’s feelings. If you are comfortable with the decision to let him or her go, however, you should be very clear in your choice of words. There is no reason to humiliate an employee on the way out, but be sure he or she knows that he or she no longer has a job with your company and exactly why.

Have a Witness

Many small businesses do not have a human resources department so having an HR representative present for a termination is not usually possible. If you have an HR department, ask a rep to sit in with you. If not, find another witness such as a department manager or even your company’s lawyer. The witness will become important in the event that the employee claims you acted improperly during the termination.

Do Not Make False Promises

Unless you are laying an employee off due to lack of available work, you are not likely to help them find a new job, and that is okay. But, it is important not to make promises you cannot or will not keep. You will probably be uncomfortable for a moment or two, but avoid saying things like “Let me know if I can help.” They are little more than empty words, and both of you know it. Instead, wish him or her the best and mean it.

Be Prepared for the Employee’s Exit

Before you begin your meeting with the soon-to-be ex-employee, you should know what will happen after the meeting ends. You should have a plan for allowing the person to clear out his or her work space and to gather personal belongings. It is also essential to make arrangements regarding the return of company property. Collect all such property as soon as possible to avoid hang-ups with the worker’s final paycheck.

One other important element of a terminated employee’s exit is his or her dignity. Being fired is likely to evoke an emotional response. It can be embarrassing for the employee to have to walk back through work areas while others are present. Wait until breaks or lunchtime if you can, or arrange for the employee to come back on the weekend to gather personal items.

Call Us for Guidance

If you have decided to terminate an employee and you are concerned about how the meeting could affect your company, contact an experienced Arlington Heights business law attorney. At A. Traub & Associates, we are committed to helping our clients protect their business interests in all employment-related matters. Call 847-749-4182 for a confidential consultation today.



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