How to Fire an Employee Legally and Respectfully
Firing employees is never easy. Depending on how long someone has worked for your business and the importance of their position, things can get complicated quickly, in the form of legal action or retaliation. In today’s social media age, a former employee who goes on an online tirade against your company can damage your reputation.
There is no “best way to fire someone,” and every situation is unique. But, there are some basic guidelines for how to fire an employee that protect your business, from using termination paperwork to maintaining security in potentially volatile situations.
At National PEO, our Human Resources Team is always available to provide consultations to clients facing difficult terminations, including an assessment of applicable law and employer policies to reduce risk and coaching on the proper steps to take leading up to employment termination. Use this guide as a starting point, and contact National PEO for assistance to stay safeguarded when firing employees.
Make Sure You Have a Legal Reason
Each state’s laws regarding what someone can be fired for are different. Make sure you are completely up-to-date on the latest regulations or let us know if you need help. Obviously, you should never fire someone based on discrimination, nor is it legal to fire someone because of union activity participation, filing workers’ compensation claims, failing to carry out illegal job assignments, or reporting firms for legal or state policy violations.
Questions to Ask Before Termination
Before you decide to begin firing employees, you should ensure you have done everything you can to make their employment work. After all, the average cost of replacing an employee is around 20 percent of their yearly salary, and even higher for executive jobs. Some simple communication may be enough to turn things around. Ponder these questions:
- Have I offered assistance the employee might need to improve their work?
- Is the reason I want to fire this person just and legal?
- How will this termination affect my team, my company, and this employee’s family?
- Am I absolutely sure beyond doubt that termination is the right decision?
Firing employees can sometimes result in a costly legal battle. Once you are absolutely certain that firing the employee is the best decision, make sure the paperwork you have before and during the termination covers your bases.
Immediate Firing Needs
Your employee handbook should include information on immediately fireable offenses which may put your or your team’s safety and well-being at risk. These include situations where violence is threatened, weapons are brought to work, alcohol or illegal drugs are used at work, sexual harassment occurs, company property is stolen, time cards are falsified, or other actions take place that cannot be tolerated.
Depending on the situation, you may want to call emergency services or move other employees to another location. Illegal acts can be reported to police. When firing because of an issue like ones mentioned above, you may want to have security present during the termination to prevent the discharged employee from acting out. Having a witness at any termination is wise because it adds extra protection for your actions.
Ask for company-issued property back immediately, and either let the terminated employee back to their workstation to pack up their personal items, or ship them later to the employee’s home address. Have security escort these former employees from your building and explain to them that returning will be considered trespassing.
Termination Paperwork Protects Your Business
Some employees feel justified taking legal action against an employer after termination. You don’t know when someone you hire might be someone you must fire, which is why it’s important to document any notable events regarding an employee’s performance. This enables you to keep an accurate log of grievances that may benefit you if you must terminate an employee.
You’ll also want to document the termination with paperwork you can keep on file. National PEO has created sample termination paperwork here that includes employee information, reason for termination, documented disciplinary action prior to termination, and explanation.
The employee should sign this document, which provides them with a better understanding of the actions that led to termination, as well as defends your business now and in the future.
Clear, Concise, and to the Point
The termination meeting should be direct and factual, but also compassionate and empathetic. This employee has dedicated time to your business and is likely to feel a wide array of emotions, some which may be negative. Having a smooth termination meeting makes the experience easier to deal with.
Some employees may argue with you or beg for their jobs back during the meeting. It’s important to immediately make clear that termination is the only option. You should still be open to allowing those who are being fired to ask end-of-service questions, so they have a clearer understanding of their termination. You should show gratitude for what they contributed and thank them for their time.
Get Help With Firing Employees From National PEO
Besides offering forms and advice on our website, National PEO also provides our clients with termination assistance. Terminations that are particularly challenging may be conducted by a member of the National PEO Team, if necessary. Like all our work helping businesses achieve better payroll, human resources, and more, National PEO can help during this difficult time.
Want to learn more about how National PEO human resources services, payroll services, online services, and more can help your business? Contact us at 480-429-8098 or send a message.