How to fire employees and not get sued

| Print |  Email
Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Termination.jpg

People often strongly identify themselves with what they do for a living, and their self-worth is closely connected to their continued employment. When people are let go, it makes a big difference if they can keep their dignity intact. They will be much less likely to sue their former employer. Here are some tips to keep in mind when making termination decisions and delivering the message to the employee.

Make sure you’re right: Gather all the supporting facts and documentation. You do not want to be wrong when you decide to terminate an employee. Part of being right is making sure the employee is aware of performace issues, preferably in writing, and has been given 30 days to meet expectations prior to the termination decision. Give the employee a chance to ask and answer questions, address issues and tell his or her side of the story.

Make a clear decision: Carefully consider all the facts and information that you have gathered, including policies and discipline procedures, and be able to clearly articulate the lawful reason for the termination. It is critical that you verify that the reason is lawful; employment law does not always follow the norms of common sense.

Proceed without delay:  If for some reason you cannot immediately terminate when you make the decision, at least document when and why you made the decision, why you have to delay communicating it to the employee, and when you intend to do it. This is important because an employee who knows that termination is coming may attempt a pre-emptive move that would prevent a discharge (such as falling down the stairs and filing a workers’ compensation claim).

Choose a good time: Do not terminate an employee on a Friday. A terminated employee will often seek out resources, such as unemployment benefits, etc. If the offices he needs are closed, frustration, anger and fear can mount and fester over a weekend. You do not want a call from an angry employee on Monday morning, nor do you want the employee to be calling around for a lawyer on Monday morning. Let the employee go earlier in the week so that the resources he needs are available. Pick a quiet place, if at all possible, away from co-workers. The worst situation is having other employees looking on when someone else is terminated. At the end of the day when others are leaving is probably the best time. Have boxes available for packing up personal items and offer to hep with taking items to the employee’s car.

Keep the termination meeting short: This is not the time to discuss all the things the employee did wrong. Remember, keep the employee’s dignity intact. This meeting is not to effect a change in behavior; it’s too late for that. This meeting is to tell the employee that he cannot continue working for your organization. Have a witness present to substantiate what is said. Generally, it is a good idea to tell the employee the lawful reason for the termination.

It can be helpful to have an outline to keep you on track. Thank the employee for his services. You may even want to tell the employee that if he applies for unemployment benefits, you will not challenge an award, if that is your position. Stand up when you want to signal the meeting is over.

When the employment department asks the reason for termination, and you give a reason, you are committed to that reason. Don’t call a discharge a “layoff.” Otherwise, if you are later sued and you want to tell the real reason for the discharge, your credibility will be questioned.

Terminating an employee is never pleasant, but it is an inevitable part of business. Employment law doesn’t always make sense and some feel it is even weighted against employers. It may be advisable to seek legal counsel prior to making a termination decision.  

— Jan Hirsch,
member, Jordan Schrader law firm


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Undersea Power

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes first came up with the idea of an ocean power device 23 years ago, when they were students at Oregon State University. They realized a long-held vision last summer, when their startup, M3 Wave, successfully launched the first ocean power device that works underwater.


Read more...

Cherry Raincoat

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.


Read more...

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


Read more...

Biker dreams

The Latest
Friday, May 15, 2015
bike at ater wynn-thumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is seeking input from businesses on a $5.5 million initiative to create a network of biking, transit and pedestrian trails within Portland’s central city.


Read more...

Up in the Air

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON

Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.


Read more...

Photo Log: The 2015 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
greenthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Oregon Business celebrated the 100 Best Green Workplaces with an awards luncheon yesterday at the Nines Hotel in downtown Portland.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS