Just like the end of a romantic relationship, the termination of an employee can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons are in the best interest of both parties but the decision to end things can still cause pain nonetheless.
Whether you’re letting an employee go for poor work performance or restructuring for financial reasons, you should ask yourself the following questions before making your move. After you write down your four answers, read on to see if you were correct and we’ll explain why an answer is the right one.
1. Firstly, it’s important to identify if the worker in question is an at-will employee. Answer the following: What defines an at-will employee?
A) The employer can terminate the employee with or without a reason at any time
B) The employer can terminate the employee with or without a reason as long as the employee is given two weeks’ notice
C) Both employer and employee may end their working relationship at any time, without notice, and without reason
D) The employee may give no notice before leaving a position
An “at-will” employee can be terminated from a job for any reason (or none), at any time and without prior notice, assuming that the firing did not occur due to racial, religious, and other types of discrimination. However, you should have a legitimate reason for letting an employee go. Likewise, the employee may vacate a position for any or no reason at any time and without notice.
2. True or False: An employer must deliver the dismissed employee’s final paycheck within 72 hours of his or her departure.
Answer: False. In the state of California, the dismissed employee must be paid the same day. But if an employee voluntarily leaves the position, the payment must come within 72 hours.
3. When an employee is terminated, what is he or she allowed to take home?
A) Office chairs/ergonomic furniture the employee bought
B) Signed employment documents
C) Desk accessories/decoration
D) All of the above
All personal property purchased by the employee is theirs. Additionally, California employers are required to give employees any work-related documents that they have signed, especially if those documents outline any confidentiality agreements or other contractual stipulations.
4. Imagine that a month or two has passed since a former employee at your company has been dismissed. A human resource associate at another company calls you as a reference for this employee. How do you respond?
A) State the dates the employee worked for you, their length of employment, and salary information
B) Share all the reasons why the employee wasn’t a good fit for your organization
C) Decline to respond
D) Refer the caller to your human resources department to answer further questions
Answer: A and C
Keep your comments short. Legal action is the last thing you want to deal with. If you share too much information (or possibly inaccurate information), your former employee may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Avoid disclosing any speculative information about a former staffer – if you’re pressed to answer, simply state that your business’s policy prohibits you from sharing further information.
If you’re still in the decision phase of determining an employee’s value to your company, consider what – if anything – you could’ve done better as an employer. If you’re firing an employee based on hearsay from another employee, the information you’ve received may not be entirely accurate. It’s unfair to both of you to dismiss an employee based on office talk that may or may not be true. It could also be that whether you realize it or not, your company could be fostering a toxic work environment that may have taken a toll on your staff and their performance.
Ask yourself if you addressed areas of improvement with an employee before you send him or her packing. If you didn’t give the worker a chance to improve, you may be letting him or her go unnecessarily.
And of course, be sure that you are following your company’s protocol as well as state and federal laws regarding termination. Remain consistent in your policies, lest you face legal trouble down the road.
RTR Consulting has more than 20 years devoted to developing effective and efficient human resources policies, procedures, and best practices for small, start-ups, and medium-sized businesses. Contact us today if you need help keeping your business running smoothly.