Naperville Business Attorney on Mistakes to Avoid When Terminating an Employee, Part 1
If you are a business owner, you probably spend a lot of time managing employees. Hiring and firing employees can be one of the most challenging tasks you encounter as a business owner. Letting an employee go is a stressful ordeal for everyone involved, not just the employee. Many employers procrastinate terminating an underperforming employee because they feel guilty or are unsure of exactly what to say during the termination meeting. Because every employee is unique, no two terminations will be the same. However, employment law experts do have several tips for employers who must fire employees that can help protect the employer and company from legal backlash.
Mistake 1: Not Giving Enough Warnings
Unless an egregious act occurs and requires immediate action, employees should be given several chances before being fired. When an employee is not preforming to your standards as an employer, the worker should be coached as to how to improve his or her work performance. Even if you are an at-will employer, you should still give a clear explanation as to why you are letting the employee go. If an employee does not understand why he or she was fired, he or she could make up his own reason. This could lead to a time-consuming and expensive wrongful termination lawsuit. Having the employees’ negative performance reviews and formal warnings on the record protects the employer from being accused of firing an employee for an illegal reason.
Mistake 2: Firing an Employee via Electronic Communication
Most people avoid confrontation as much as possible. It is understandable that an employer may be tempted to terminate an employee over the phone or via email in order to avoid an awkward face-to-face encounter. Although it may seem easier, employers should not terminate an employee via email or the phone, with the possible exception of an employee who is being terminated for not showing up at work.
Speaking with an employee face-to-face about his termination is respectful and ensures that the employee understands that he or she is being fired. It is likely that the employee will tell others of the dismissal – including possibly sharing the story of the termination on social media. Make sure you do not do or say anything that could damage your company’s reputation when firing an employee.
Mistake 3: Not Including a Witness in the Termination Meeting
In order to help protect your company against allegations of wrongful termination or other wrongdoing, it may be helpful to have a witness present when you fire an employee. Generally, this witness is a human resources staff person with experience in firing and hiring employees. An HR employee can help confirm that employees are treated fairly and professionally, thus limiting your liability.
Contact a DuPage County Business Attorney
In an upcoming post, we will look at a few more common mistakes to avoid when firing an employee. If you have questions about how to protect your business from lawsuits in the meantime, contact the experienced Naperville business law attorneys at the Gierach Law Firm. Call 630-756-1160 to schedule a confidential consultation with our team today.