Six Questions to Consider Before Firing an Employee

You should consider the following in deciding whether to fire an employee:

1) Do you have documentation of the employee’s poor performance and/or poor behavior? What is in the employee’s personnel file? You should also conduct a thorough investigation of the events in question including the employee’s version of the events. Consider whether a judge or jury would find the employee’s version plausible.

2) Does the employee deserve to be fired? Again, consider whether a judge or jury would find it reasonable for the employee to be fired.

3) Is the decision to terminate the employee inconsistent with the previous actions of the company? Review whether the employee recently received a favorable performance review, promotion or pay increase. If so, is the current issue severe enough to warrant termination?

4) Have you followed your progressive discipline policy? If you have a progressive discipline policy the judge and jury will expect you to follow it unless the employee’s actions are so severe at to warrant immediate termination. You need to make sure you follow your handbook in these instances. Judges and juries want to know that you are being fair.

5) Is the employee a member of a protected class or recently made complaints? Consider whether the employee is 40 or over, a woman, minority or in another protected class. Did the employee recently make any complaints where you could be accused of retaliation if you fire the employee?

6) How have you handled similar situations in the past? Consider whether you have terminated other employees for similar infractions. Are you consistent? Make sure you treat employees in a protected class in the same as employees outside the protected class.

For advice in a particular situations where you are firing an employee please be sure to contact your lawyer.