Armanino Blog

How to Fire Someone the Good Way - Prevent Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

by Jenn McCabe
July 03, 2018

Being good at firing people is critical if you want to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit. It's never a fun task, but it's an unavoidable part of doing business. In our opinion, there are two simple rules of thumb when you are terminating an employee:

  1. Be kind. Be professional, yes, but if you have to be a little less formal in order to express and feel some empathy, do it. It is horrible to lose a job. The person in that chair is often embarrassed and worried about money.
  2. Don't let it be a surprise. If you were shy and didn't communicate clearly that the job was at risk―for either performance or economic reasons―expect the employee to be angry. Anger often leads to other problems after they leave the building.

If you've got that nailed, you can move on to all the paperwork that accompanies the termination with confidence. If you don't get those things right, paperwork, critical to your protection, gets missed in the confusion.

Situations to avoid to prevent wrongful termination

There are a couple of situations that make a wrongful termination suit more likely. One is when the employee feels that they were unfairly fired, because they are convinced that they actually did a great job and you're making stuff up (we're not kidding).

If you've been clear about your reasonable expectations, have talked to the person about how to improve their performance, and have written follow-ups to those conversations that were encouraging but firm, they shouldn't be surprised. Be direct and be fair.

Another situation to avoid is when the employee believes that they were discriminated against. If you have a good employee handbook that doesn't just spout legal mumbo-jumbo, that has policies you live by, and that is a good representation of your culture, you should be ok. Make sure you have your new hires sign a receipt for that handbook on their first day at work.

To sum it up: Be a good human (and document it)!

All of your employee life-cycle events should be documented, and our HR experts are here to help. We assist clients with hiring, terminations, performance improvement plans and more on a daily basis.

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Jenn McCabe - Partner, Outsource HR - El Segundo CA | Armanino
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