You hear about it all the time in the news. A company on the rise or one that has been in business for decades is suddenly thrown into the national spotlight for negative reasons, culminating in a lawsuit. As a business owner, this situation is your worst nightmare, as public perception is of tremendous importance. Many of these legal disputes stem from an employee being discharged for what the individual felt were unjust reasons. Obviously, you cannot control another person’s behavior, but there are things you can do that will minimize the risk of these problems cropping up whenever you have to let someone go.
If you have several supervisors managing the other employees of your company, you need to be sure that they are properly trained on the business’s personnel policies and on any laws dealing with the employment relationship. These supervisors must be made aware that they are to maintain documentation about any decisions they make involving personnel matters.
Aside from verbal communication, these policies need to be reinforced in the printed materials your company issues to every employee, including employee handbooks, job applications, work rules and more. On an annual basis, carefully review each of these with the intent to limit or remove any statements that refer to progressive discipline, fair treatment or permanent employment. Additionally, be sure to get advice from legal counsel about the kinds of safeguards and disclaimers you can use for further protection.
Establishing the Relationship
Whether you are dealing with new employees or seasoned veterans, everyone needs to be made aware of how the employment relationship is defined in your company. State your right to use sole discretion when choosing to enact transfers, assignment changes or demotions, and state the purpose and length of a standard probationary period if your company uses one.
Establishing the employment relationship is best done as early in the process as possible. This means that you need to have a solid idea of what your interviewers, recruiters and supervisors say when speaking to prospective employees. These people need to have a standardized script so that you can be sure that everyone who comes to work at your company has the same information. Reviews for these employees should be conducted on a regular basis in keeping with the policies established in interviews and written material.
After the Decision
Even though you may have made the decision to discharge an employee, there is still a series of actions that you should take to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. If a terminated individual falls under a protected class or has given a long period of service, a system needs to be in place to review the surrounding circumstances. Much like your recruitment process, your termination process must be uniform for every person, and should probably include an exit interview. You might consider offering these people a procedure for making an appeal or mandatory arbitration.
Crucial Steps for Supervisors
If you have supervisors who are empowered to make decisions that affect other employees, there are a few actions that you must be sure are performed in every instance.
- Make sure the decision is based solely on performance-related reasoning and has nothing to do with generalizations about race, gender, age or disability.
- Record the reasons for the decision, citing specific examples of the employee’s behavior in the workplace to ensure that everything is done in accordance with company policies.
- Be thorough, accurate and clear when performing employee evaluations and when informing a former employee about the reasons for the discharge.
Terminating an employee is not a pleasant process, but there are steps you and your employees can take to keep it straightforward, avoid unpleasant legal action and move your business forward.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.