It's never easy to terminate an employee. Even if you have clear cause to do so, you may wonder about the potential ramifications of your actions. You may wonder if it will somehow affect your business, especially if the employee was subject to a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement. You may wonder whether he or she will file a wrongful termination claim against you, even though the law is on your side.
Truthfully, these are very real risks when you terminate an employee. However, you may be able to take steps to help ensure that your employee departs on the best terms possible. In some cases, you may have time to properly document a termination, but in others, that opportunity simply doesn't exist. How you address the situation could make all the difference.
When the termination needs to happen on the spot
In some cases, you will not have time to build a paper trail to protect your company. You may need to let some employees go immediately. More than likely, these types of terminations occur under circumstances such as the following:
- The employee brings a weapon to work.
- Someone catches the employee viewing pornographic materials on company computers and on company time.
- The employee threatens violence.
- The employee commits an act of violence.
- You have proof that an employee stole company property.
These are by no means the only circumstances under which an immediate termination may be necessary. You may want to make sure that these and any other immediate termination criteria your company has are listed in your employee handbook in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises for those involved.
Making the process as painless as possible
An uncomfortable conversation needs to take place, but even in a situation in which the termination needs to happen that day, you may want to take at least a few moments to plan the process. The following tips may help make the process go more smoothly:
- If it appears that the employee could be a danger to him or herself and everyone else in the vicinity, you will need to take steps to get everyone to safety. You may want to contact security and the police.
- Things may go better if you use internal security instead of bringing in police, unless the circumstances leave you with no choice.
- If the employee's actions were illegal, you may need to call the police even with no fear of violence.
- Keep your words and voice polite and respectful regardless of how you may feel in that moment.
- Advise the employee that you intend to terminate his or her employment effective immediately.
- Advise the employee of the reason for the termination and explain what company policy he or she violated.
- Oversee the return of company property and the packing of personal items.
- Answer any questions the employee may have regarding the termination.
- Have the employee escorted off the premises. Make sure that he or she understands that returning to the premises would constitute trespassing.
Hopefully, you will make it through this process without incident. You need to document as much of the process as possible in order to protect your business from any potential legal issues. This may include taking statements from anyone who witnessed the action that led to the termination, police reports (if applicable) and any other documentation to substantiate the termination.