Employee Termination: Policy and Procedures

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

Human resources policies pertaining to employee termination must be consistent, fair and justifiable. Neither managers nor human resources staff look forward to terminating employees; however, in cases where it's absolutely necessary to discharge an employee, established guidelines make the process much easier.

Termination Procedures for Human Resources Use

Employers can prevent wrongful discharge claims through developing a set of procedures for employee terminations. Establishing a termination policy and procedure mitigates potential liability for employees who seek redress through informal complaints and litigation. Human resources staff members responsible for handling terminations must be familiar with the policy and any updates. In addition, labor and employment laws concerning terminations should be available to human resources personnel for reference prior to conducting an employee termination.

Employee Discipline and Termination

Employees should be aware of workplace policies regarding disciplinary action, suspension and termination. If your company has a progressive discipline policy, you must have written guidelines that cover each step of discipline. The most effective ways to communicate these policies are during new-hire orientation and within your employee handbook. Many employers request a signed acknowledgment from employees that indicates they have received and understand workplace policies set forth in the employee handbook. Every employee file should contain a signed acknowledgment in case questions arise concerning termination or any other workplace policy.

Performance- or Attendance-Based Termination

There are several reasons why an employee might face termination. Poor performance and attendance are two very clear and straightforward reasons that employers terminate employees. Performance-based terminations are usually the culmination of a progressive discipline policy where -- after several disciplinary steps -- the employee still fails to meet job expectations. Employers with strict attendance policies often have what's referred to as a no-fault, point-based system. Once an employee reaches the maximum number of points allowed for unexcused absences, it is appropriate to terminate the employee.

Termination for Misconduct or Misrepresentation

Employee misconduct and behavior that reflect poorly on the employee and the company are justifiable reasons for termination, particularly when the misconduct or behavior rises to a serious level. Gross misconduct, such as an employee whose behavior constitutes a threat to workplace safety, can be reason for immediate suspension or termination. Termination for misrepresentation occurs when an employer discovers the employee made fraudulent statements or untruthful assertions regarding his qualifications for a job. Misrepresentations commonly pertain to falsification of an employment application. This is one reason that formal applications for employment require an applicant's signature that indicates the information provided is truthful and verifiable.

Termination Procedure

The actual termination procedure typically starts with the employee's supervisor or manager, who discusses the matter with a member of the human resources staff. Human resources employees most apt to handle terminations are in the employee relations area of the department. Once the department manager and human resources determine termination is appropriate, they schedule a meeting with the employee. During the meeting, the manager and human resources staff produce documentation that justifies the termination and explain to the employee why ending the employment relationship is the best solution for all parties.

Employment Termination Logistics

Following the termination meeting, the human resources staff member will make arrangements for handling matters such as continuation of benefits, issuing a final paycheck and collecting company property. When the termination meeting might be emotionally charged, it is always wise to have at least one other witness on standby and, if necessary, a member of the security force on hand. Disgruntled employees who receive distressing news might need careful counseling to avoid workplace disruption.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.