Compliance Issues When Terminating an Employee

A time will come when a relationship with a current employee is no longer benefiting the company or the individual. But these days letting someone go is risky and if your business doesn’t want to end up in a long drawn out litigation process, preparation and due diligence is paramount. Here are steps your company can take to ensure terminating an employee goes as smoothly as possible.

Document Everything

Employers typically take advantage of the employment at will doctrine in which an employee can be fired without good cause at any time. However, this does not give an employer unlimited freedom to fire employees illegally.  Existing proof should back up all the employer’s claims. Whenever situations arise, managers need to document dates and times and the circumstances involved.  Performance reviews and written warnings should all be signed and dated by an employee after discussion.  Keep this documentation even after an employee leaves the company.

Keep in Mind Protected Classes

Certain employees will fall into protected classes that cannot be discriminated against. These include but are not limited to age, race/color, religion, sex, national origin, whistleblowers, and individuals who are exercising legal rights such as jury duty or military leave. This doesn’t mean that people in protected classes are untouchable, but you must have definitive proof of poor performance that justifies the termination.  

Termination Meeting Guidelines

The manager is responsible for firing the employee while the HR representative will handle all the paperwork. Furthermore, consensus on the firing is critical for all management levels actively involved with the employee. Keep the termination meeting short, preferably less than 15 minutes. Afterwards, escort the employee off the premises with the option to clean out their desk at that time or come back during non-business hours. Keep in mind it is important to treat the employee with compassion and respect in such a sensitive situation.

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