Terminating and Disciplining Employees

Unless your last name is Trump, firing an employee is probably one of the least enjoyable parts of operating a business. However, the list of reasons for terminating employees is endless – poor performance, misconduct, refusing to follow instructions, tardiness (this author’s pet peeve), endless texting on the job (good luck finding a young person who doesn’t spend his day on his/her smart phone), dangerous behavior, etc. And even when an employee provides excellent service, business necessity may require a layoff. The reality is, at some point, a manager will have to terminate an employee. If not handled properly, it can result in expensive litigation. And these days, wrongful termination lawsuits are not merely idle threats to businesses.

Arizona Employers Should Keep the Following in Mind When Terminating Employees

Following the proper and uniform procedures in conducting the termination helps in many ways, including softening the blow to the terminated employee (who is often surprised and upset) and protecting the business from potential litigation arising from the termination. Preparation is key when firing someone, and careful planning can limit misunderstandings, anger and accusations. It is important to have documentation of the employee’s performance because an employee who is sincerely surprised by his termination may conclude that something other than performance – such as age, sex, religion or disability – was the real reason he was fired. A termination for poor performance should never be a surprise. Thus, informing the employee of their poor performance appraisals, written warnings, and reminding them of relevant communications about their deficiencies, helps to protect your company from a wrongful termination claim.  This doesn’t mean the employee won’t disagree with the decision, but if the employer has addressed the issue with the employee in the past and carefully documented the employee’s failure to improve, it will be more difficult for him or her to later argue that the termination was unlawful. Also, have a witness present when you deliver the news to the employee (lest they later claim that you fired him for some illegal reason).

The Bottom Line

Employee termination can tricky and delicate. If they are treated unfairly in the termination process, they can become a large liability and costly headache to your company later on. For a business owner, it only takes a little professionalism and planning at the start to make the most uncomfortable termination both easier and legally compliant later. It is highly recommended that your business obtain legal advice from an Arizona employment attorney regarding the procedures to take when terminating an employee. We would be happy to assist you with this, thus please contact our office for a consultation.

If you are facing a decision concerning this issue, please contact our office for a consultation.