Botched Firing Opens Door for Lawsuit

A senior manager walked into an employee’s office and said “You’ve been fired,” and then walked out. He brought along an HR representative to take over the conversation. Neither the HR representative or the employee had any warning of the firing. They were stunned and left to pick up the pieces.

That story was reported in a Huffington Post article “Firing Someone the Right Way.” The author points out that although the senior manager saved himself the uncomfortable task of firing one of his team members, he opened himself up to a huge lawsuit and probably lost the respect of the remaining staff.

The article lists the following recommendations for managing terminations more humanely and with less liability.

• Ensure that the employee received warning. If the worker didn’t perform well, evaluations should reflect that. Even if the employee is being let go because of poor profits or a reorganization, give some fair warning through company announcements or preliminary conversations.

• Be prepared. Share the final day of employment, severance pay and benefit options. Imagine what questions the person will have and research the answers prior to the termination discussion.

• Keep emotions in check. Don’t respond to angry responses from employees. If you get caught up in the moment, you may say something you’ll regret later. Make yourself available to talk again when the employee regains composure.

• Follow up with existing staff. Listen to their concerns about handling the fired employee’s workload and their own job security.

No one enjoys breaking the news about a termination. However, if you follow the guidelines above, you’ll minimize negative feelings and limit the likelihood of a lawsuit.