By Joshua Dalrymple
Terminating an employee, while sometimes necessary, is rarely a pleasant process. Most employers think that the termination process is finished after the employee leaves the workplace, but this is not necessarily true. After termination, many employees immediately seek legal counsel in order to explore a wrongful termination lawsuit. Here are a few suggestions for avoiding litigation:
1) Preparation: Look for cause. Preparation is crucial, and an employer has a significant advantage in planning carefully before notifying the employee of the termination. Termination is always cleaner if good cause is set forth at the time of the termination. “For Cause Termination” can be based on a number of factors, but one of the surest is to show that the employee has been dishonest. A quick and easy way to check for dishonesty is to perform a careful inspection of the employee’s resume and other employment documents.
2) Brevity: Do not provide too much information. One common mistake I often see during terminations (and in many other types of cases) is the inability to be concise. Explaining every detail of the reason for termination is unnecessary. The employee will likely disagree with the reasons for termination, so more information just presents more opportunity for litigation. I am not suggesting that you terminate without a reason; I am simply suggesting that you not set forth the reason in too much detail to the employee. If you feel the need to give the employee a reason for termination (which may be necessary to avoid unemployment compensation), then stick to the primary reason rather than a list of reasons.
3) Grace: Allow the employee to leave with dignity. A termination discussion can quickly become an emotionally charged event for both parties. It is tempting for an employer to exert authority over the employee by adding harsh criticism to an already emotional event. Worst yet, an employer may try to embarrass the employee by publicizing the event to other employees. The employee may feel that the only way to recover his or her reputation is to drag the employer through the mud in a public forum, and this often means nasty litigation. Employers would do well to avoid criticism and embarrassment.
An amicable separation is in everyone’s best interest. Preparation, brevity, and grace can help avoid costly litigation. Using some of the suggestions above should help an employer remain focused on business rather than court proceedings.
The preceding is for general informational purposes only and not intended to constitute specific legal advice or form an attorney/client relationship. Please seek the services of a licensed attorney for specific legal advice.
Joshua Dalrymple is a faculty member at Kaplan University and teaches topics including tenant law, real estate law, legal ethics, family law, ethics and the legal environment, intellectual property and law office management. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.