Reducing Your Risk When Terminating Employees

Today, the unemployment  rate in the U.S. is at a record high. Likely, more job losses are forthcoming. Employers are separating employees involuntarily at an increasingly rapid rate.

As a human resource  consulting firm, we are receiving many more calls than usual on how to develop  appropriate employment termination strategies.

A termination goes beyond  just having an employee’s final paycheck ready along with mandatory forms and pamphlets.  It’s important that your company has a termination process in place that is consistently  followed with every involuntary employee separation whether it is a) a  termination for cause; b) a reduction in force; c) a facility closure or; d) the  result of a merger or acquisition.

The loss of a job can be financially  and emotionally devastating. Tough economic times can exacerbate the existing  pressures that laid-off employees feel when having to find a new job and make  ends meet. An appropriate, effective termination process will reduce the risk  of:

  • Lawsuits
  • Potential workplace  violence
  • Security breaches
  • Poor employee  morale.

A coordinated, well-thought-out  termination process helps both the employer and the employee in many ways.

Ten Step Employee Termination Plan
How you exit an employee from  your organization takes careful planning, anticipation, patience and genuine compassion.  When developing your company’s termination process, it’s best to work with  human resource professionals and legal counsel to develop a low-risk plan. A  plan of action typically includes these ten elements:

1. Identify who in your  organization has the authority to terminate an employment relationship.

2. Request that human  resources and/or legal department review each potential employee termination to  ensure that:

  • All company  policies are followed (i.e., discipline, at-will, internal dispute resolution,  arbitration agreement, employment and union contracts, etc.).
  • A proper  assessment is made to determine if the WARN (Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification)  Act is applicable.
  • Handling of  employees is consistent throughout all terminations.
  • Documentation  supports the action the company is taking.
  • An assessment of  other risks and exposures are identified and assessed prior to termination,  including age, race, pregnancy, workers compensation claims, recent participation  in an investigation, and other factors.

3. Determine who will conduct  the employee termination meeting. It should be someone trained in conducting  terminations and who has demonstrated the ability to communicate with tact,  diplomacy and patience.

4. Ensure a witness is present.

5. Select a time that is  least disruptive to your business operation. Remember if you let an employee go  in the morning, many of your remaining staff will be talking about it the rest  of the day, which can result in lower productivity and morale.

6. Plan and coordinate the  following:

  • Safety – Anticipate  reaction by the terminated employee; do you need security services?
  • Access – Shut down  the terminated employee’s computer access, including remote access, in a timely  manner.
  • Security – Cancel  or disable all passwords.
  • Coverage – Who,  if anyone, will need access to the employee’s documents/emails and for how long?
  • Communication – Plan  to reroute the employee’s email and direct phone lines.
  • Authorization – Cancel  all signing authority and company credit cards in a timely manner.
  • Transportation – Determine  if the terminated employee carpools or takes public transportation. In the case  of public transportation, show the employee respect by arranging for a taxi to take him or her home. This will also eliminate a  possibly disgruntled employee from remaining on the company’s property.

7. Provide the final paycheck  including any accrued unused vacation, plus any required forms, separation  agreements, and disclosures, (change of relationship, COBRA, and EDD pamphlets,  etc).

8. Retrieve all company  property (keys, laptop, cell phone, pagers, etc.).

9. Communicate the employee’s  departure to remaining employees in a way that minimizes the impact to their  morale and perception of the company.

10. Treat all employees  (terminated and current) with dignity and respect. Remaining employees always watch  how you exit employees from your organization, because they are thinking that next  time it could be them.

Terminations are often based  on business necessity or for cause; however, employers cannot lose sight of the  human factor regardless of whether the employee did something wrong or he/she was  your best performer. If the termination is due to a reduction in the workforce,  consider providing severance, outplacement services, or other assistance to  help the terminated employee(s) refocus and transition in a positive manner as  they make a new start.

Linda Harris ,CEO, JorgensenHR helps companies develop  and update their termination policies, procedures, and processes. She has  worked in the Human Resources field for the past 25 years. Linda can be reached  at (661) 600-2070 or

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