How to Fire an Employee With Minimal Hassle

terminationAt-will employment laws, which allow employers to fire employees for no reason, may give employers some security to keep their workforce’s stocked with top performers. At-will language in employment agreements and employee handbooks reinforces this protection. But even with this relative security, employers have to be careful with terminations and don’t always know how to fire an employee legally.

It’s never easy to sever the employment relationship, especially if there’s been any criminal activity such as theft. No one likes to deal with difficult situations like terminations and the drama that can go along with them. But when you do, you can lessen the risk of getting sued with a combination of common sense and planning. Take a look at some ways to better understand how to fire an employee and avoid costly legal entanglements.


Probationary Employment and Progressive Discipline

A probationary period of 30 to 90 days from the date of hire gives employers a little extra time outside of the recruiting process to further evaluate a candidate on the job and figure out how to fire an employee if warranted with creating liability. During this time, employees may be fired and as probationary employees, and they don’t have as many rights as full employees. Another version of probationary employment is to bring in contract or temp workers to see how they work before making a hiring decision. These types of probationary employment situations offer a little extra insurance in the employment relationship.

Another way to protect the integrity of the relationship is with progressive discipline policies in which actions that warrant discipline and firing are dealt with in increasingly more serious steps before firing takes place. Some progressive discipline policies may include coaching and training to try to save the relationship when determining how to fire an employee. Both probationary employment and progressive discipline policies should be clearly defined and communicated in documents such as the offer of employment, employee handbooks, and policies and procedures manuals.


Understand Employment Law

Candidates and employees have protections under employment laws and employers should be sure to understand those laws during recruitment and while trying to figure out how to fire an employee. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines protected classes and types of discrimination. The EEOC enforces laws that protect employees from being fired in retaliation and wrongful termination. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects employees who need to take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for themselves or family members who are ill or injured. Knowing these laws and how they apply to your employees before you terminate someone prevents liability for wrongful termination or discrimination.

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Documentation Equals Protection

It costs money to recruit, hire, onboard, orient, and train employees. Every employer should avoid hasty terminations except in extreme cases of danger or grievous actions that jeopardize the business. For infractions of company policy and procedure, managers, supervisors, and human resources should document incidents and actions taken, such as coaching and warnings and performance reviews with signed and dated paperwork. Clearly documented poor performance and bad behavior gives an employer protection and options when deciding how to fire an employee and serves as proof that the employee was given the opportunity to make changes and improve before termination.


Handle Termination Proceedings Carefully

After an employer has decided how to fire an employee, it’s more important than ever to proceed with care. Even when there is ample evidence of employee wrongdoing and cause for termination, the termination conversation should be kept minimal to avoid escalating emotions and making statements that could be discriminatory or indefensible later. Avoid lengthy discussion of the reason for termination and keep the termination meeting brief, factual, and professional, with one supporting witness in private to help the employee separate from the company with as little emotion and drama as possible.

Determining how to fire an employee legally isn’t difficult with the right policies and procedures in place, and when the right preparation has taken place. Without these advance preparations and protections, terminations can be rash, unsupported decisions that create legal liability.


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