Employee terminations are among the most difficult challenges employers face in today’s workplace. Employers may hope to handle problems with employees through coaching and counseling, but some employees will not benefit from any amount of coaching and must be released from their employment. When making decisions about employee terminations, employers should focus on the actions that will most benefit the healthy functioning of the organization and maintain a satisfying work environment for the employees who remain. There are several best practices for employers to use when considering employee termination.

Employee Termination: Identifying and Documenting Problematic Behavior

The employee termination process begins long before an employee is formally fired. There may be isolated cases in which an employee commits a termination-worthy offense without any forewarning or record of preexisting poor performance, but most of the time, the poor performance of employees is noticed long before termination is on the table. Companies must constantly identify nascent problems before they get out of control, and document them accurately. Once a set of poor behaviors is identified by managers, supervisors, or co-workers, it is crucial to document the issues and efforts to correct the behaviors. Accurate, timely, and complete documentation of unwanted behavior and remedial measures by management can be effective in preventing future unlawful termination lawsuits.

Employee Termination: Coaching & Performance Improvement Plans

Employees with performance problems require coaching from their supervisors and other leadership. Leadership must identify the needed actions or additional resources and supply them as quickly as possible. Motivated employees, when provided with the guidance they need, often can improve their performance and eliminate the need for further action from employers. If, however, an employee’s work continues to be substandard, it may be necessary to create a performance improvement plan that states the nature of the unacceptable behaviors, explains the kinds of changes that must be made, and discusses any training that must be completed. These types of plans should include a timeline for the completion of the plan, and meetings should occur between the employee and the supervisor to keep track of progress.

Employee Termination: Formal Termination Process

Upon conclusion of a performance improvement plan, an employee may need to be terminated. An employee should be terminated by a manager in person, in a private area where the discussion will not be overheard by others. Though there are many Human Resources factors that come up because of the termination process, it is not required to have a representative from Human Resources present during the firing, but it can make the process go smoothly. It is important that the terminated employee leave the premises immediately afterward. 

Employee Termination: How We Can Help

Payne & Fears attorneys have spent decades helping employers navigate the employee discipline and termination process. We partner with clients to develop procedures for documenting problematic employee behaviors and poor performance and for developing and implementing coaching and performance improvement plans. When a termination is necessary, we support clients and help them safeguard against future employee termination-related disputes. We also offer employer support and training on how to best foster a safe, healthy, and productive working environment.

In addition to counseling clients on the best ways to recruit and hire top employees, we work with our clients with an eye toward increasing current employee job satisfaction and maintaining high productivity among the current employees. We advise clients on dealing with issues related to all phases of the employee lifecycle, up to and including employee discipline and termination. At every step of the way, Payne & Fears attorneys work with clients to reduce the risk of exposure to employment-related claims and to retain the strongest workforce possible.