The Decision to Terminate Employment

The decision to discharge an employee is often filled with doubt and trepidation. Obviously, certain flagrant behaviors in the workplace (e.g., theft, fighting, substance abuse, etc.) may warrant immediate termination of employment. However, the decision to discharge an individual for a violation of work rules is frequently less obvious, and the employer will take into account the individual's work history, previous warnings, and the potential legal risks of discharging the employee.

Following is a checklist of considerations developed by Hunter Lott to assist in determining if an employee's behavior warrants termination:

Was a specific policy violated and does the violation warrant termination?

Have other employee been held accountable to the same policy? What are the precedents?

Has the employee been previously warned about the unacceptable performance/behavior?

Can we prove the employee knowingly violated the policy?

How did the employee react when confronted with the violation?

Has the employee complained of harassment or unfair treatment?

Has the employee recently filed a workers' compensation claim?

Is the employee about to vest in certain benefits?

Has the employee returned from or applied for military leave or medical leave?

Has the employee complained of company wrongdoing or a safety issue?

Were any promises made verbally, or in writing, to this employee by management?

Were any requested accommodations denied to this employee?

Is there any evidence of discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, disability, or other legally protected characteristic?

Having considered these issues, your company can make an informed decision about whether or not termination is a good idea. Just because some problems may come up in this analysis (for example, the employee has made a recent complaint about his supervisor), you don't have to reverse the termination decision. However, where such mitigating factors are present, it is important to have good documentation that explains the circumstances and rationale for the decision to terminate.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with workplace issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .