Giving a Reason for Employee Termination
There may be times when a business owner or manager will terminate an employee and not provide the individual with a reason for the separation. We have had business owners and managers make the statement “we are an at-will employment state, and I don’t have to give them a reason.” While this statement is true, it is not recommended.
Don’t “sugar coat” it
A separation is an uncomfortable situation for all parties. Often managers and business owners don’t want to be too harsh or make the employee feel worse than they already do. Consequently, they don’t give the full or real reason for separation. The manager “sugar coats” it. This does not help the employee or the employer. Being honest and upfront about the reasons (that are hopefully documented) will help avoid wrongful termination claims. It will also assist the employee in understanding where their deficiencies lie.
Assumptions are usually bad
When an employee isn’t told the reason they are being separated, they make assumptions, usually wrong assumptions, about the reason they were separated. Not all employees are self-aware. They often don’t recognize where they might have gone wrong. They may assume the decision was a personal one. All too often, the conclusion they come to is that they were discriminated against. They may speculate. Perhaps it was for their age, their religious beliefs, or the medical condition they told you about. You may have a strong case and can win a potential lawsuit or discrimination claim. However, the process of responding to these claims can cost a business significant time and money.
Reduce your risk
Your risks of having higher unemployment costs and potential claims of discrimination increase substantially when you don’t provide the actual reason for separating an employee. In addition, disgruntled employees and former employees are often on social media. They may not hesitate to post their dissatisfaction about a company. They could post their opinion or interpretation about the situation rather than the truth.
At ESC, we encourage our clients to reach out to their HR Consultant before separating an employee. We help them determine if they have properly documented the incident(s) that led up to a termination. If a termination is unavoidable, we will assist them in executing it. (Often we will go to the client site to do the separation for them or with them.) We can also help provide a reason for termination to the employee to help mitigate uncertainties.
Here are more best practices on separating an employee:
The Five Step Employee Separation Process
Controlling “Uncontrollable” HR Costs