Firing an Employee

Firing an employee can be a stressful time for all parties involved. When choosing to fire an employee, it can take time. However, if you are firing an employee due to an illegal act, the firing will likely be done immediately.

Don'ts of Firing

  • Don’t fire an employee unless you have first met with him or her face-to-face to go over the issues you are having with the person’s performance.

  • Oftentimes, before terminating an employee, the employer will provide an employee with a warning letter indicating the issues that the company is having with the problematic employee.

  • Don’t terminate an employee without having a witness present. The hiring manager doesn’t want a he said/she said legal battle to ensure based on a disgruntled employee.

  • Don’t simply terminate the employee without having all necessary items spoken about beforehand. For example, if firing the employee, you’ll want to ensure that he or she is well aware of his rights and responsibilities, including COBRA benefits, unused vacation day pay, the date of the last paycheck, unused business expense reimbursement, return of company property (i.e., work phone, laptop, etc.) and any other important items.

  • Don’t draw out the meeting or beat around the bush. Be candid and straightforward with the employee as to why his or her employment contract is being terminated.

  • Don’t let the employee believe that the decision is not final. The employee should be aware that there is no “rebuttal” period in which the employee can respond to the firing or make an argument for his or her case.

  • Don’t allow the employee to remain on the premises. You may want to have security escort the employee off the premises so that the employee doesn’t have time to speak to other colleagues or take confidential information off the property.

  • Don’t allow the employee to leave the premises with company property. This can include a laptop, work phone, ID badge, or other items belonging to the company.

  • Don’t allow the fired employee to go back to his workstation unless it is for the sole purpose of collecting his or her belongings. Ensure that someone remains with the employee until he or she leaves the work premises.

  • Don’t finish the meeting on a negative note. Ensure the employee that you will assist in any way to help him or her obtain another job (assuming this is how you feel). You can even indicate that you will provide a positive reference for future potential employers reaching out for a recommendation on the employee.

  • Don’t fire an employee without crossing every item off your checklist. You’ll want to make sure that all items are taken care of in terms of offboarding the employee.

Other Considerations

Although you are choosing to fire an employee, this may have been a very tough decision for you as well. You’ll want to use a supportive approach to ensure that there is no hostility or negative reaction on the part of the employee during the time of firing. You’ll also want to keep the information confidential as you won’t want the employee to become aware of his or her firing before it happens. Once one person in the workplace knows, the information can travel rather quickly. Also, keep in mind that the news may appear on social media websites if an employee wishes to retaliate by badmouthing the hiring manager or employer. However, any employee should know that such bad mouthing will only have a negative impact on the employee. Also, after an employee is fired, most colleagues will question whether or not a trend is going to occur and will generally look to their hiring managers to ensure that their work is sufficient. You may even see an increase in job performance during this time.

Do’s of Firing

  • Be thoughtful when firing an employee. In fact, studies show that the more kind an employer is when firing an employee, the less likely the employee is to badmouth or even bring a lawsuit against the employer.

  • Be transparent; provide the reason(s) why the employee is being fired.

  • Have an HR representative present. This person is usually the witness to the firing and is there to answer any questions the employee may have.

  • Listen to the employee’s response. Don’t react quickly by ignoring his or her response. Understand that the employee is losing his or her job, which can and will likely affect all other areas of his or her life.

  • After you fire the employee, call a team meeting to discuss what just happened as most colleagues will take notice that something isn’t quite right. Ensure your team that they are doing a great job and that if you have any issues with their job performance, they will be well aware of it.

  • Choose an appropriate place for the meeting. You don’t want to hold a meeting in a conference room where colleagues can see what is happening. Choose a private place to ensure confidentiality and leave the employee comfortable and not embarrassed by such firing.

  • Prepare for the meeting. Ensure that you are well aware of prior warnings provided to the employee, and the primary reason(s) for firing.

If you need help learning how to properly fire an employee, or if you are currently facing an employment lawsuit based on an employee’s termination, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb