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Doing Termination Letters Right

Even if there is a valid reason for doing so, terminating an employee is never easy. Yet when the time has come to let an employee go, it is important to do it the right way. Oftentimes employers get into trouble for how a termination occurred, not why. Drafting a proper termination letter can help avoid such problems.

What should be in a termination letter? Employers may wish to include the following:

(1) A notice that the action was a termination;

(2) The date of the termination;

(3) The reasons for the termination ­- avoid being too vague or too specific;

(4) The dates and subject matter of prior warnings - this is especially useful when documentary evidence supports prior discipline;

(5) Benefits to which the employee is entitled;

(6) Circumstances under which the employee had access to a second review or appeal of the termination - here is where an employer may agree to characterize the employee's departure as a layoff, resignation, or retirement;

(7) The employee's last day of work and what company property must be returned by that date; and

(8) The date, time, and place for an "exit interview" - at the exit interview, the employer should notify the employee that a paycheck for final wages, including accrued unused vacation time, will be provided. An exit interview is not required. However, if no interview is done, the termination letter should specify how the final wages will be provided.

A copy of the letter should be given to the employee's immediate supervisor and an additional copy should be placed in the employee's personnel file.

While there are no guarantees that a terminated employee will not seek legal action after a termination, a properly drafted termination letter goes a long way to prevent problems down the road.

This article is for education and information purposes only; it should not be construed as legal advice. If you have an employment law question for inclusion in a future article, contact Brett T. Abbott at Gubler & Abbott LLP (bta@thecalifornialawyers.com). For specific employment law advice or other legal assistance, contact Gubler & Abbott LLP, (559) 625-9600, 1110 N. Chinowith St., Visalia, CA 93291 (www.thecalifornialawyers.com).

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