How to fire employees and not get sued

| Print |  Email
Archives - August 2007
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

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Read more...

Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GINA BINOLE

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Read more...

Light Reading

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Ask any college student: Textbook prices have skyrocketed out of control. Online education startup Lumen Learning aims to bring them down to earth.


Read more...

Up on the Roof

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction. 


Read more...

Portland’s long-distance bike commuters

The Latest
Monday, August 03, 2015
Matt KellyresizethumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Pushing the extreme.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

Best Foot Forward

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.


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