Q: We are considering terminating an employee who is not measuring up to our standards. Can you offer any suggestions on what we need to do before we let the person go?
A: The following checklist may help. It contains common-sense items, all of which must be considered prior to making an adverse personnel decision.
Although each one of these items taken alone may seem obvious, all too many employers have neglected to consider them and then paid the price when confronted with an administrative claim or lawsuit.
By taking the time to consider these items, an employer can avoid the headache of attempting to defend itself without the necessary ammunition.
* Make sure you compile thorough and complete documentation of supervisory decisions involving all personnel matters.
* Frequently review employee handbooks, work rules, job applications and other forms of employee communications to delete or limit statements regarding fair treatment, progressive discipline and permanent employment.
* Make sure that any language regarding the definition of when an employee may be terminated encompasses layoffs, downsizing and change in operation situations.
* Consider not using a probationary period. If a probationary period is used, be sure to define its purpose and state that the completion of period does nothing to erode the relationship between the employer and employee.
* Be sure when recruiting employees to avoid any written or spoken references to job security and the permanency of employment in future.
* With respect to an employee’s performance review or evaluation, be sure that such reviews are timely, accurate and consistent with company policy or the company handbook.
* Make sure that job evaluation forms are consistent, and make sure that job descriptions truly describe the positions currently being used by the company.
* Consider obtaining release forms or settlement agreements from certain terminated employees, especially in those situations where severance is being offered to the employee.
* Be careful in providing letters of reference. Make sure that any letters of reference always contain accurate statements, whether positive or negative, regarding a terminated employee.
* Frequently review all employment handbooks and personnel policies to ensure that they are up to date and accurate.