Firing employees is sometimes an unfortunate part of being a manager or supervisor of a company. There are a variety of reasons you might have to let an employee go, ranging from poor performance to downsizing. Regardless of the reason though, it’s important to be careful every step of the way, as a number of legal actions can be made against depending on the manner with which the employee was terminated. By being prepared beforehand, you can avoid some common employee firing mistakes — and consequently avoid legal ramifications.
Employee Firing Mistakes
1) Breaking laws. Certain laws can be broken during the firing process without realizing it. It is important to be aware of the terminating employment laws in your state as these laws can vary depending on the state. Wrongful termination, which can eventually lead to a lawsuit, is a situation in which the employee was fired from their job without a justifiable reason, such as being fired at will or an illness or disability that has not come in the way of the employee’s job performance. In some states, verbal promises of long-term employment can also be brought up in a lawsuit.
2) Failing to warn employee. Being sure your employees understand their current performance is key before even considering terminating their employment. They should know where they stand at the company as far as their job performance. If their job performance has been lacking, they should have been warned beforehand both verbally and formally with written documentation several times — so that they have the opportunity to improve before their employment is terminated.
3) Failing to document performance issues. The legalities of informing an employee of their lacking job performance, attendance issues, or other problems regarding their job are also important. Each time an employee has a meeting with a supervisor or human resources department to discuss a performance issue, the meeting should be documented. Keep these documents for your records so that they may be presented in the case of a wrongful termination lawsuit.
4) Failing to prepare for the termination – Be fully prepared for the firing of an employee in order for the smoothest termination process possible. If there is a severance package, have that information ready before your termination meeting. You should also prepare all other paperwork and documents such as health insurance information, vacation pay, or other paperwork that the employee needs to sign.
5) Mishandling the communication of the firing –After firing an employee, keep in mind how this action is being communication to other employees. In order to avoid gossip, you should communicate the reason why an employee was terminated with as much information as you feel your employees are entitled to. If it was for poor job performance, theft, or attendance issues, the rest of your staff can benefit from this information by taking it as a warning to meet the expectations of their job.
6) Waiting too long – Once you have decided to terminate employment, do so immediately to prevent the employee from finding out about being fired beforehand. In this case, the employee may begin a lawsuit before the termination, do very poorly at work, or become disruptive at work. For this and other reasons, it is important to act quickly once you have made the decision.
7) Failing to have an after termination plan – It is also important to be prepared for what you will do after the employee has been terminated. This means to be setting up interviews for filling their job position, hiring a temporary employee, or outsourcing the employee’s various job duties to other employees until the position can be filled permanently.
Terminating an employee is never a pleasant experience, but you can avoid legal ramifications that may arise by being prepared, understanding your state’s laws, and having a solid plan.