Most managers would agree: the least favorite part of their jobs is
terminating employees. This anxiety, combined with an inherently
uncomfortable situation, can lead to mistakes and potential legal
troubles. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) awarded $42 million in monetary penalties in 2012 to employees
who were subjects of discrimination. In addition, more than half of
wrongful termination lawsuits are won by the former employee.
Reduce your risk of lawsuits and lessen the traumatic impact of a
termination by following these seven best practices:
1. Base your decision on facts, not emotions
Make sure your decision to terminate an employee is based on provable
facts and is only for business reasons. Otherwise, you may run into
trouble if the termination reason is questioned later on.
2. Make sure everything is well-documented
Documentation is your best defense in the event of a lawsuit. Even
employment attorneys are often surprised at the lack of documentation
companies maintain about the employee’s performance and their reasons
for termination. Don’t let the conversation devolve into “he said, she
said” by backing up your assertions with hard proof.
3. Have the meeting in person
Resist the urge to take the easy way out and terminate an employee via
email or phone. Have the meeting in person. Include only yourself, the
employee and possibly one other manager or HR representative. Having
another person in a managerial role in the room gives you another
witness in case your actions are called into question, allows that
person to take notes if needed and discourages any abusive reaction on
the part of the employee.
4. Be honest about your reasoning
Tell the truth about why you decided to fire the employee. Provide
honest feedback on his performance or the reasons for letting him go.
If applicable, let him know that you attempted to find another position
at the company for which he would be a good fit.
5. Have a plan
The employee will probably remember this meeting for the rest of his
life, so make sure you’re prepared. Plan your termination meeting in
advance, drawing on how-to guides, templates and checklists from HR
With the right plan and execution, you can do a lot to make the
experience less uncomfortable for everyone.
6. Be consistent
Be consistent with your company’s policies, contracts and past
practices. If a lawsuit is filed, you’ll be much better off if you
followed a consistent process. Review pertinent policies and contracts
before you make a termination, so you can ensure you’re following your
7. Treat the employee with respect
Whatever your reason for letting the employee go, he deserves to be
treated with dignity. Here are a few ways to show respect for the
* Don’t fire him on a Friday afternoon—he will spend the weekend
feeling helpless and cut off from all resources.
* Resist the temptation to lighten the mood by making jokes during the
termination meeting—for the employee, this is no laughing matter.
* If applicable, explain any re-employment assistance your company
* Express confidence in his future success.
* After the meeting, give him time to compose himself.
Terminations are a fact of life for managers, but by following these
best practices you can shield your organization from legal
repercussions and mitigate an unpleasant situation for departing
*You can find complete how-to guide, termination checklists and sample
exit interview forms in the HR Support Center,
a comprehensive knowledgebase of HR guides, templates and more.
Sources: EEOC Enforcement and Litigation Data, Lawyers and Settlements,
TLNT.com, HR Support Center
This content is intended for educational purposes only and should not
be considered legal advice.