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No Lawsuits or Drama: 5 (More) Steps to Stress-Free Terminations

Think about the last time you had to terminate an employee … Was the person surprised? … Did they argue the merits? … Did they think your decision was fair?

According to a recent poll, a surprising 61% of people who had been fired believed that their terminations were unjustified. And for many of those people, “unjustified” is just one step away from “illegal” and a trip to a lawyer’s office.

Terminations are your biggest risk when it comes to employee lawsuits. And the termination meeting itself goes a long way in determining whether the person wants to hug you … or sue you. In our last LEAP Letter , we gave you five tips for conducting stress-free, liability-free termination meetings. Here are five more:

6. HANDLE FINAL PAY. Under some state laws, when an employee is involuntarily terminated, the employer must pay all earned and unpaid wages within 24 hours after the employee’s demand. To avoid any potential dispute over when a demand was made, simply have the final paycheck available at the termination meeting.

7. RESPOND TO INQUIRIES, BUT DON’T RUSH. Some states allow terminated employees to request copies of their personnel records or even demand a written statement of the termination reason. Know the law in your state and how to respond. Review these requests with legal counsel, and take the allowable time to formulate your response.

8. CONSIDER SEVERANCE. Many employers offer severance benefits as a way to help terminated employees make a transition to other employment. When those benefits add up to a significant amount, they should be conditioned upon an agreement releasing the company of any and all legal claims. Employers must meet various legal requirements for such releases to be enforceable. They are complicated, so work with your legal counsel to make certain your release agreements are enforceable.

9. DOCUMENT THE DISCUSSION. Right after the meeting, you and the witness should document what happened. If you did a good job of preparing a script and sticking to it, you should be well on your way to completing the documentations. In your notes, document specific quotes – both from your and the employee – on important points.

10. MAINTAIN CONFIDENTIALITY. Resist the urge to use this event as a lesson to other employees – or to put to rest rumors about why the employee left the company. With the exception of those who have a legitimate need to know more, employees and customers should simply be told that the person is no longer employed with the company.

The bottom line: Good preparations, sticking to a script and treating departing employees with respect will go a long way toward minimizing the tension (and legal risks) that come with a termination. You can learn more about terminations and all other types of HR-law compliance at LEAP 2020. Plus, you’ll have a fabulous time with your peers at the legendary ARIA Vegas Hotel & Casino.

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