Terminating employees is often difficult and always fraught with considerable legal risk. But there are several key best practices you can follow that can ease the transition and help protect your business. As you will learn below, preparation, consultation and documentation are essential when it comes to employee terminations.
Additionally, there can be situations where an employee with no previous performance or misconduct issues does something that warrants immediate termination, such as violence, theft or other major policy (or law) violation that puts the company at risk. In those cases, you should thoroughly document the employee’s conduct and the specific company policy and/or laws that were violated.
Additionally, it is unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee for reasons protected under the law, such as age, race/color, national origin, gender, religion or disability. With any involuntary termination, it is always a best practice to have the documentation reviewed by your legal counsel and/or a trusted HR services provider prior to moving forward. This mitigates employer risk. It also helps ensure that your termination reason(s) and all related documentation support a lawful termination.
Preparation is key with RIFs. You should first clarify your business goals, then use those business goals to determine the criteria for selecting employees for the RIF. Next, you’ll want to clarify the process for decision-making regarding those affected. This includes determining the timeline of the RIF and who owns the key decisions throughout the process. Additionally, it is important to conduct an adverse impact analysis to determine if you’re laying off more of a certain protected class, such as women, minorities or older employees. In addition, you also want to lessen the pain for those leaving. The best thing you can do for them is to help them find jobs by providing outplacement services, if possible. Easing the transition with a severance package (in conjunction with a separation agreement) can also help. As with single involuntary terminations, all these considerations should be reviewed and approved in advance with qualified legal counsel and/or a trusted HR services provider.
Consider also employees not affected by the RIF. For example, how do you transition the workload of those who have been terminated to the remaining employees? Also important is to do everything you can to be keep employee morale up during such challenging times. Be as transparent and communicative with employees as possible under the circumstances. This helps keep the fear of the unknown from stifling productivity and eroding leadership credibility.
When letting go of employees, always have a detailed and compliant plan, and ensure that all parties involved implement it consistently.
If you have any questions about hiring or terminations, talk to your HR services provider.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.
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