08/30/13 By Jennifer Brown

Unfortunately, if you are a business owner with employees, you will eventually be faced with needing to terminate an employee (if you haven’t already had to do so). No matter how strong your recruiting, hiring, performance management, and management practices are, employee terminations are an inevitable part of owning a business. Terminations can result from employee misconduct (e.g., fraud, theft, violation of standards of conduct or policy), performance issues, and changes in business (e.g., lack of work, contracts ending, new markets).

Note: Prior to conducting an employee termination, it is wise to seek counsel from an employment attorney to be sure that you don’t have any litigation exposure.

The 9 Steps for Conducting an Employee Termination Meeting

Termination meetings tend to be stressful for both the employee and the person delivering the message. Nonetheless, there are some key steps to follow that can make this meeting easier:

Step 1) Above all else, treat the employee with respect and kindness and remain calm no matter how the employee reacts. Refrain from arguing with the employee, instead be compassionate and respectful.

Step 2) Conduct the meeting in private and keep it brief.

Step 3) Have another witness present – preferably someone from HR or in management.

Step 4) During the meeting, discuss termination benefits.

• Focus on the real reason for the termination. Be straightforward regarding the reason for their termination, ensuring that the employee will not draw their own conclusions regarding the reasons for the termination. During the meeting, communicate the message behind the decision. Avoid discussing anything not relevant to the reason for termination, stay on point during the entire termination meeting.

• Review termination benefits, if any (i.e., severance, vacation pay, insurance continuation or conversion) and, if applicable, review the separation and release agreement, which typically goes hand-in-hand with severance.
• Let the employee know if you are willing to give him/her a reference.

• Give the employee the termination letter per your company practice and/or state requirements.

Step 5) immediately following the termination meeting, allow the employee to retrieve any personal items from their workspace, but be sure to stay with the employee. This allows the employee to get their personal items and helps to mitigate claims that you did not give them these items. It is also is a respectful gesture.

Step 6) Gather company property (e.g. badges, employee handbook, uniforms, keys, credit cards, phones, laptops, company car, tools) from the employee.

Step 7) To reduce the risk of litigation, provide the employee with his/her final paycheck as quickly as possible, no later than the next regular payday or sooner, if required by state law (be sure to check your state’s wage and hour website for final paycheck rules).

• Be sure to pay the employee in full for their last day of work regardless of the time of day that he/she leaves and to pay the employee for any accrued vacation and/or paid time off per your state’s requirements and/or company policy.

Step 8) Have the employee leave the premises immediately following the termination meeting and gathering of their personal belongings.

Step 9) Document the termination meeting including any comments made by the employee, keep this document in the employee’s file.

Following the Meeting

Other individuals in your business will have questions once the termination meeting has been completed. Be sure to communicate about the employee’s departure with your current employees and clients. However, keep the reason for the termination confidential and private. You only need to advise your current employees and clients that “Jane Doe” is no longer with the company.

What other things have you done to make termination meetings go more smoothly?

Please let me know what other topics and/or questions you’d like me to address.