Layoffs are an unavoidable aspect of any business and to be quite honest it sucks having to terminate anyone. Nonetheless, most, if not all, successful business owners at some point have to terminate an employee and some have even had to let go of entire departments or offices.
When you reach the conclusion that you need to downsize and terminate an employee or employees, you need to do so in a calm, compassionate and methodical manner. Here are some helpful tips for getting through the termination process.
Be Organized and Prepared When Initiating the Termination
You need to execute each step in the termination process carefully and in a timely manner. If you fail to do so, you are exposing your business to serious legal liability. Prior to terminating an employee, you need to have the following items reviewed and ready:
- Preparation and delivery of the employee’s last paycheck (if you offer direct deposit, make sure you confirm the date of the final deposit);
- Compensating the employee for any unused vacation days;
- Detailed severance package discussing the terms of the termination (if applicable); and
- Paperwork for signing up for COBRA.
I cannot stress this enough, you need to document everything! Get everything on the record, to help protect yourself from potential employment discrimination claims or other wrongful termination claims. For example, you should document your rationale and underlying reasons for the termination in order to defend against an accusation that the termination was personal in nature or race/gender or any protected class related. You should also save the communication (e-mail, hard copy letter, etc.) of when the termination decision was made.
One of the best ways of reducing the risk of litigation is displaying compassion and understanding with the employee. Remember that being let go is an emotionally traumatizing event and the employee may be inclined to lash out, especially when he or she is first informed of the termination. The employee will probably have legitimate concerns and major questions (e.g., what about my mortgage and my family’s well-being?). Keep this in your mind during the termination and respond to any acrimonious statements made by the employee with empathy and understanding.
On a similar note, treat the employee with respect throughout the termination process. There are many instances of employees who took legal action against their employers, not because they were let go, but because of the way they were treated when they were let go. For example, swiftly escorting the employee out of the building without affording him or her the chance to say goodbye to colleagues and collect personal belongings invites consternation and resentment from the terminated employee. Some companies embrace the “quick exit” process because they do not want the employee to take any vital business documents when they leave. However, a simple strategy to implement is, during the termination conversation, you can ask the IT staff to lock the employee’s computer or wipe it of any internal corporate documents.
Speak to an Orlando Small Business Lawyer
If you need help with small business issues, including the proper protocols for employee termination, contact the Chidolue Law Firm. We serve small businesses in and around Seminole, Volusia, Orange and Osceola County Florida. We are ready to help. Contact our office today at 407-995-6567 to schedule a meeting.