The probationary period is particularly critical for public employers. Case law has determined that public employees have certain protections and property rights with respect to their positions upon successful completion of the probationary period. The probationary period represents a kind of trial period, in which the employer can assess the employee's performance, fit and suitability for the position. During the probationary period, the employer can dismiss the employee without providing due process. Instead, the employer should simply write to the employee to provide notice of termination of his employment.

Step 1.

Review the employee's performance and assess if she is meeting the requirements of the job, including fit with the organization, use of good judgment and satisfactory performance. Consider if the employee has received notice of the failure to perform, including specifics and a chance to improve.

Step 2.

Draft the written notice to the employee. Include the date that the employee will separate from employment or state that the dismissal is effective immediately.

Step 3.

Provide a reason for termination during probation. No cause is necessarily required, but it is good practice to provide some information. The reason does not need to be detailed or overly specific -- one or two sentences will suffice -- but it should establish a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for dismissal.

Step 4.

Include administrative information about returning the employee ID card, keys and equipment, and provide any necessary information about the final paycheck and benefits. If the employee has "bumping rights" -- the right to return to a former position -- include details about who to contact and where he will be located. In a federal environment, include information about appeal rights.

Step 5.

Ask the executive officer, president or the appointing authority to sign the letter. This helps the employee to realize the decision was supported by top management.


Don't wait until the last minute to dismiss an employee on probation. Employees must be monitored and counseled throughout the probationary period and should receive a chance to improve prior to discharge.


Time lines are critical. If you plan to terminate an employee during probation, the letter must be written and issued before the end of the probationary period. Once the date passes, the employee is deemed to have passed probation, regardless of whether this was the manager's intention.