Hey Compliance Warriors!
Today we’re continuing with part four in our series. This section is important because of the sensitivity of subject matter that can surround an employee’s termination, the attitude of the employee being terminated, or the people involved in the reason for termination. We will get into the hows and whys of important points that an employer may not have previously considered.
Part Four: Things to Consider When Setting Up the Termination Meeting
Firing an employee is never a pleasant experience – for the manager or the employee. However, an effective termination meeting can help to (somewhat) diffuse the situation, allow the employee to keep their dignity and ensure the manager is following all of the proper, legal guidelines. The termination meeting should serve as a chance to terminate the employee discreetly, while ‘wrapping up’ certain matters, such as returning keys or badges and negotiating some form of severance or benefit pay.
The main person present in an employee termination meeting should be the employee’s manager or immediate supervisor. They will most likely be the one to fire the employee since they are most familiar with the reasons for termination, employee performance, and the employee’s personality. In most cases, another attendee should be present and can act as a witness or a simple observer. This person is usually a representative from human resources, but can also be another manager or supervisor. Sometimes, the employee will request this witness to ensure that they are not treated unfairly during their termination. Other times, the manager may request another person to be present to act as a buffer during the meeting, especially if they know the employee may have a temper or attitude problem. However, be warned that the employee may feel as though the company is ‘ganging up on them’ if more than one person is present during their termination, so the manager should use their own discretion when making this decision.
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Venue of the Meeting
Once you have decided to conduct an employee termination meeting, you must decide where it will be held. Matters such as termination should be handled privately, meaning it should be out of sight and earshot of any other employees or co-workers. If possible, the meeting should be held in a location that does not alert other employees that something could be happening or raise suspicion, such as a general conference room, rather than the manager’s office. Locations such as manager or supervisor offices or the employee’s office space should be avoided for this type of meeting.
In rare instances, a manager may decide to have the meeting in a location outside of work, such as a restaurant or coffee shop. Some managers feel as though this will reduce the chance of an emotional outburst or other embarrassing behavior. But it is important that the employee still has the option for requesting a witness or wanting to speak with their human resources representative with any questions, so the manager should weigh the pros and cons before choosing this option.
Before a meeting is established, some managers may request another person to be present during the meeting, such as a human resources representative, to act as a witness and a buffer for both the manager and the employee. If the manager feels as though the employee may become violent or destructive, they can request a company security officer be present during the meeting.
Security is mostly needed once the meeting is over and the employee must be escorted off of the property. In some cases, the employee can be escorted off of the property and the manager can offer to have their personal belongings sent home to them at a later date. In other cases, the employee will want to retrieve their own personal items from their desk. In this case, the security officer should escort the employee directly to their desk, ensure they grab their belongings (and not any company property) and escort them directly to the exit. Since the employee will obviously be upset after their meeting, security must be willing to face and even subdue any forms of emotional outburst or backlash from the employee.
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Before letting the employee go and having them escorted off of the property, it is important for the manager to review any form final benefits package, including final paychecks, medical insurance coverage, and retirement/vacation pay. Discuss with the employee if they will need to complete any actions to obtain these benefits, such as signing a release for the company or taking part in the company’s exit interview. Provide the information the employee may need for continuing certain services, such as phone numbers to COBRA or brochures for the company’s retirement firm. Ensure that the employee has telephone numbers and contacts in the human resources department in case they have any questions or concerns after they leave. Regarding the employee’s last paycheck or final pay, the manager must decide the best way to take care of it and let the employee know how it will be handled. Some managers may choose to mail the check after the employee has left. Another option is to have the final paycheck ready for the employee during the meeting so that they can take it with them when they leave.
“All things are difficult before they become easier.”
Zelda was discussing an upcoming termination meeting with her supervisor, Kenny. She informed Kenny about an employee she was preparing to terminate but wanted to make sure everything was in order for the meeting before she spoke to the employee. Kenny first asked Zelda who she will have present during the meeting. Zelda told him she will be the one conducting the meeting, but will also call human resources and request either a representative or security officer to be present as well. She told Kenny she will hold the meeting in the employee training room since it is farthest from the other employees and is not in use at this time. Zelda asked Kenny to help her gather the employee’s final pay and extended benefits information so that she can give it to him once they are done with the meeting.
“Once I have that information together, I’ll call the employee in for his termination meeting,” Zelda said.