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The Do’s and Don’ts of Termination Meetings-December-2016

Terminating an employee, while never an enjoyable experience, is sometimes necessary. Regardless of the reason for the termination, employers should be careful carrying out terminations. Employers often get into legal trouble with former employees because of how the termination took place, not why. One good practice to ensure that terminations are handled properly is to conduct a termination meeting.

There are certain steps employers should consider in carrying out a termination meeting. First, arrange for the meeting with the employee as soon as possible after the termination decision has been made, before rumors can spread and misinformation gets out making the process more difficult. Second, hold the meeting at a time and place that will ensure privacy and minimize interruptions. Third, to lessen the chance of conflict between the employee and supervisor, have someone other than the employee's immediate supervisor conduct the termination meeting, such as a Human Resources manager or the employee's department manager. Fourth, it's often beneficial to have a second manager or supervisor attend the termination meeting and serve as a witness, but not otherwise actively participate.

The person conducting the termination meeting should briefly state the issues that precipitated the meeting, taking time to review any prior discipline which supports the termination. Make sure that the employee is given accurate reasons for the termination - reasons given to the employee that are later proved incorrect will undermine the employer's defense if the employee sues the employer.

Be respectful, yet matter-of-fact with the employee. Do not allow the meeting to become argumentative. If the employee becomes argumentative or threatening, terminate the meeting and leave the room. Perhaps most importantly, be brief - the meeting should not last longer than 15 minutes. At the conclusion of the meeting, hand the employee a letter of termination, and briefly explain its contents. Be sure to provide the employee with documentation regarding the employee's unemployment benefit rights.

Finally, unless there is a valid fear of theft or destruction of company property, allow the employee to privately gather personal items and leave the premises. Employers who require that the terminated employee be "escorted" from the building or monitored while cleaning out his or her desk could increase their risk of a lawsuit. Remember, it's often how a termination is carried out that causes problems, not why.

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). Read Mr. Abbott's blog on employment law issues at http://work-law.blogspot.com.

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