Employee Firing Procedures

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How Important Are Employee Firing Procedures?

Poorly handled employee terminations can lead to serious and costly legal problems. There are many things to consider before, during, and after a termination that an employer should keep in mind to best protect their interests and avoid a lawsuit.

What Should an Employer Consider Before Firing an Employee?

An employer should be sure that the employee termination is approved by top level management and follows written company policies. You should also seek legal advice if there are any questions regarding the procedure and reasons for termination.

Unless an employee has specifically committed an act that leads to termination, the employee should usually be told the reasons for their termination. An exit interview with the employee and human resources should be carefully planned to anticipate responses and reactions.

If an employee is being laid off or having their work area closed, it is may be a good idea to provide advance notice of their termination so the employee can seek alternate employment or prepare for unemployment. Keep in mind that too early notification could affect productivity or cause undesirable actions.

As a security precaution, be sure to change security codes and passwords to deny access to the employee once their employment has been terminated. This can be especially important for employees with access to confidential information, including trade secrets.

How Should an Employer Handle the Firing Process?

The most important part of the entire process is to be honest and clear about the reasons for firing. Avoid personal statements that may humiliate or anger the employee, and do not be vague about whether the employee could return. It may be helpful to have another person present as a witness or for emotional support.

Allow the employee to remove their personal belongings at a time of their choosing, usually after hours or a weekend. Prepare a checklist of company property that should be returned, such as ID cards or keys. 

It may be helpful to discuss future recommendations with the employee.  It is important to be supportive of the employee, if possible, but not to say anything incorrect about the employee or that reflects badly on the company.

What Should an Employer Do After Firing an Employee?

The employer should immediately document the event, writing down details of the conversation and reactions as a record. This may be an invaluable tool in fighting future legal challenges to the termination.

An employer should also distribute the employee’s final paycheck according your state’s laws. The timing for a fired employee varies from state to state. Some states require fired employees to be issued their final check immediately. Additionally, employers should evaluate whether an employee qualifies for unemployment benefits.

Staff and other employees should be told either verbally or in writing about the incident, but it is important that nothing defamatory be stated. Employees should be reassured about their ability to stay within the company and invitations for conferences about the termination should be given.  

Do I Need an Attorney For Employee Firing Procedures?

Terminating an employee is an extremely stressful, personal, and unfortunate part of running a business. It can lead to a great deal of bitterness no matter how fair or necessary the firing was. Consult an experienced employment attorney to stay informed about legal firing procedures and tips.

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Last Modified: 01-09-2014 04:18 PM PST

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