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Do you need to terminate an employee? There are strict laws protecting workers during termination. If businesses aren’t compliant, this can result in a lawsuit.
How much does this impact your business? A study looked at 1,700 cases between the years 1988 and 1995. Employees won termination suits 64% of the time.
Terminating an employee is never easy. If it has to be done, all businesses should ensure they’re compliant with the law. Here’s how to conduct an employee termination meeting.
You should always terminate an employee in a face-to-face yet professional setting.
The supervisor should be the one terminating the employee. Supervisors are most familiar with the employee, their personality, and worked with them closely. If they didn’t choose to terminate the employee, they may know the reason and can effectively explain this to the worker.
HR can also join them if they wish. HR can act as a witness. They will also ensure the termination meeting is fair and the employee is informed of their benefits.
You should hold the termination meeting as early in the day and as early in the week as possible. This is beneficial for the employee. They can immediately start applying for open positions and find a new job quickly.
When you hold a meeting early, the supervisor and HR can get the termination off their shoulders and focus on core business functions. You can also start looking for a replacement immediately.
Workers and supervisors tend to behave better in the morning than later in the day. In the morning, everyone is refreshed and ready to start the day. Supervisors will fall on schedule and employees will take the bad news better.
Find the quietest and most private place in your office to hold the meeting. You want to ensure you’re alone with the employee and there are no distractions.
You should also be subtle with the discharge process. Make sure the place has no employee access. You’ll also want to avoid common spaces that hint at an employee discharge, such as your office.
What if your employee needs to move their belongings from their desk? Instead of doing so immediately, offer for them to pack up their items after work hours. This prevents other staff members from seeing them and the embarrassment your employee could experience.
What if your office space is small? Take a walk with your worker or treat them to coffee. Since you’re out in public, there’s little chance of an outburst.
Before we discuss what to do or say during the meeting, it’s vital you take your employee’s emotions and dignity into consideration.
Losing a job is humiliating, even if the termination isn’t a representation of the worker’s performance (for example, if you’re downsizing due to lost profits).
Your staff member may feel resentment toward your business, such as leaving a bad company review on an employee review website or telling potential customers to not support your business.
Do everything you can to reduce your employee’s resentment and decrease their feelings of inadequacy and humiliation. This will help to decrease the risk of a bad business reputation and may also decrease the chance your worker will sue you.
The termination meeting should be relatively short but thorough enough so the employee understands why they’re being discharged. Prepare what you’ll say. Create a script, if you think it will be helpful. Prepare yourself in case the employee doesn’t take the termination well, even if you try and be respectful.
Here are some additional actions to follow.
There are always two sides to a story. If your employee is being let go for a specific occurrence, such as a dispute, it’s important to be fair and listen to the employee’s explanation. Even if you’re already planning on discharging them, your worker can walk away knowing they had a say in this situation.
What if your staff member is being let go for a performance issue? It’s normal for them to become emotional and provide a reason for their poor performance. Use caution by not talking over them or interrupting. Allow them vent and express themselves without allowing it to affect you or the rest of your staff. You should also listen to an employee’s explanation in case they state discrimination issues or other reasons that can lead to a lawsuit. If you suspect your employee will sue, contact your attorney.
Many employers make the mistake of rushing through the termination without providing an explanation. This not only disrespects your employee but can also lead to a lawsuit.
Always provide a reasonable explanation for their discharge. Always ensure your reason for discharge is legitimate and you have the proof to back up your claim.
During the meeting, inform the employee of their benefits. We will go over the layoff benefits you need to provide in another section. It’s helpful to provide a brief explanation of their healthcare and unemployment pay, as well as additional benefits your state may require.
Some states also require a termination letter that states these benefits.
It’s not uncommon for discharged employees to try and reclaim their position. If their termination is agreed upon by all supervisors and HR, tell the employee your decision is final.
Before your employee leaves the office, ask for any office possessions they may possess.
This includes keys, uniforms, the company vehicle, a cell phone, and credit cards. If some of these possessions are difficult to retrieve immediately, such as a vehicle or a cell phone, you can request a deadline for the staff member to return these items.
After a termination, many employees fear how they will explain their termination to a future employer. Try and assist them by offering best practices.
You can help them write their former position with your company on their resume. In an interview, you can offer advice on explaining your termination.
Oftentimes, employers will instruct terminated workers to sign a voluntary release form. This is for their protection during future hires and protects you from a potential lawsuit.
If a prospective employer contacts you, you can state the employee voluntarily left for personal reasons and provide the proof. If an employment lawyer approaches your office because your staff member wants to sue, you can prove your employee left voluntarily.
If your staff member left for a non-performance issue, such as company-wide layoffs, offer to be a reference.
Federal laws require employers to offer benefits when terminating an employee. These benefits may also differ, depending on state laws and the state your business is based in. Here are the most important laws to know.
You’re required to notify your discharged employee of their insurance benefits (this doesn’t include health coverage, which we will discuss next). You must also inform your former staff member to file their claim on time.
Failure to notify your discharged staff member of these benefits can result in a lawsuit.
Under COBRA, employees are required to receive health insurance coverage for a specific amount of time after their termination. There are some instances where a staff member doesn’t qualify for COBRA, such as gross misconduct and felony offenses as a result of their termination.
Discharged employees are entitled to their vested retirement benefits, including profit-sharing and pension benefits. Be careful if your terminated employee is eligible to retire and is about to utilize their retirement benefits.
There are legitimate reasons to lay off an employee and reasons that go against the law. Avoid terminating an employee for these reasons.
Keep in mind, each state has different employee termination compliance laws.
Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), veteran employees are protected after returning to work from a period of service. Veterans can also only be fired “for cause” after returning from their service for at least a month.
These terms are increased to six months after returning service members are away for 30 to 180 days and their discharge protections increase to one year after returning from more than 180 days.
The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) law protects employees from being discharged due to discriminatory reasons. You may not discharge an employee due to their race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, veteran status, and disability.
Handling employee termination is never easy. To ensure you’re compliant, it’s integral you have a powerful HR team at your side.
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