Involving a Human Resource professional in terminations should be an absolute. Firing employees is a stressful situation, and too often management rushes the process. If careful steps aren’t taken you may be setting yourself up for major problems down the road including potential litigation from the terminated employee.
Here are just a few examples of things that can go wrong…
Termination Documentation – There is no clearly documented reason for the termination. Everyone in your organization may know there’s a problem, but if it is not clearly documented the courts will always believe the employee. If the employee is a member of a protected class and/ or recently requested leave, made a complaint or claim, this termination could be even more costly.
Investigation – There is no investigation. When there is no investigation, the termination may be perceived as unfair. The employee may have had a reasonable explanation for their behavior, but you will not know if you do not investigate.
Disciplinary documentation – There is no documentation that the employee knew he/she broke a rule. If you have no signed acknowledgement of a rule by an employee, terminating may appear unfair. Furthermore, failure to follow your discipline policy could land you in hot water. Juries prefer to see your gave an employee a fair chance to improve or correct the unacceptable behavior. Actions are also often made too quickly in anger, without considering if all the necessary steps have been taken. You need to be sure the punishment is appropriate for the violation and consistent with how similar infractions have been treated.
In-person – To be sure terminations are executed in person, privately, honestly, within any contractual obligations and without emotion.
Follow-up documentation – Often times employees are not provided with termination documentation. It’s always good to give workers a termination letter that includes information regarding any post-employment obligations. Some states require that the reason for termination be stated in the letter so be sure to check your state specific laws.
In the world we live in today, it is better not to take risks, especially those that could be so easily avoided.