Unfortunately, not every employee that you hire is going to work out; eventually, you are likely going to come a time when you need to let an employee go. Perhaps they broke some rule, or their performance has slipped since you first hired them. Whatever the reason, once you have decided to let an employee go, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Firing an employee the wrong way can result in some serious negative consequences, making it essential that you follow the right process.
Repercussions of terminating the wrong way
Before we get into how to go about firing an employee, you should know the potential consequences for firing someone the wrong way. For starters, poor firing practices will reflect negatively on your company, and give you a bad reputation. If your company develops a reputation for poor firing practices – such as doing so without cause or proof, or handling the firing in an embarrassing manner – it will deter people from applying to work at your company. People want to know that the company they are going to work for cares about them, and poor firing practices shows a lack of concern for employees.
Not only will bad firing practices hurt your appearance with outside candidates, but it will reflect poorly on you with your current employees as well. Employees want to be secure in their jobs, and this is not possible if they think they can be fired at any moment without good cause. This can lead to poor performance due to decreasing morale, or good employees leaving for other opportunities elsewhere.
In addition to a poor reputation, firing someone the wrong way can have legal repercussions. For example, if the person you fire believes you did so for reasons related to race, religion, or another protected class, you may be open to a lawsuit. By following the right procedures when letting someone go, you can not only ensure your company image remains intact, but that you won’t be sued as well.
By following a simple checklist, you can make sure your company is letting a person go the right way. Go through each of the following items the next time you need to terminate an employee, and not only will your actions be justified, but you won’t open your company up to legal recourse.
Did the employee do something wrong?
First, did your employee do something that warrants a firing? Did they steal from the company, harm the business in some way, or continually show up late? Your company should have a list of policies that all employees need to follow and if someone broke one of these policies that is worthy of termination, your actions will be justified.
When an employee breaks a company policy, you need to have this policy in writing. Don’t allow your employee to plead ignorance – if you have your policies in writing, and your employee has agreed to them, there is no reason for them to not be aware. When you are firing an employee because of poor performance, you also need to back this up with evidence. According to The U.S Small Business Administration, providing evidence “will provide legitimacy to your actions and prevent any complaints, lawsuits or accusations that termination was discriminatory.” Bring out charts, numbers, performance reviews, or written accounts from third parties that showcase the employees substandard performance. Whatever reason you are using to terminate this employee, make sure you can back it up with solid evidence.
Compare against other employees
The next thing you need to be sure of is that you are not holding an employee to different standards compared to your other employees. For example, if this employee broke a company policy, you cannot allow others to break it without punishment. You need to hold each employee to the same standards, or else you open yourself up to a lawsuit.
Has the employee recently filed a complaint?
If the employee has recently fired a complaint against the company, or another employee, this is something you will want to take into consideration. For example, firing someone right after they have made a complaint regarding harassment in the office could also result in a potential lawsuit. Employees can lodge complaints for several reasons, including harassment, unfair treatment, company wrongdoing, or a safety issue. Be sure any complaints are resolved before proceeding with the termination.
Is there evidence of discrimination?
Can this termination be attributed to the employee’s race, religion, sex, national origin, or disability? There are legal protections in place to ensure that no one is fired due to these and other characteristics. Before you let anyone go, be sure the reason is not because of discrimination, and that there is no evidence of such. The termination needs to be based solely on job performance or a violation of company policy, not personal characteristics.
There are a few more things that you need to think about before you can fire a person. Has the employee requested specific accommodations that were denied? Were there any verbal or written promises made to the employee? Has the employee recently requested military or medical leave? Did the employee file a worker’s compensation claim against the company? Each of these issues can cause your company problems down the road if they are perceived to have factored into the firing. You need to be sure there is no mistake that issues like these have either not occurred, or can be proven to have no impact on the termination.
We know this is a lot to think about before firing someone, but it is essential that you consider everything listed above before you proceed. The reasons for firing someone may be justified in your head, but if you cannot prove them, your company could be at risk. Employees have legal protections in place, and if it is determined they were let go in violation of these rights, a lawsuit may be brought against you. If you’re unsure about whether you are handling the process of firing an employee correctly, consider consulting your legal counsel to be on the safe side. Additionally, here is a list of all the reasons an employee can use to sue for wrongful termination.