What Is the Proper Closing to a Letter of Termination?
Not all employee terminations are documented in a letter, but it's a good idea for businesses to follow this practice. A letter protects the employer by detailing the reasons for the termination, and this could be important should the employee contest the dismissal. While the first few paragraphs set the general tone and dictate the content of the letter, the closing is especially important, as it’s often what lingers in the employee’s mind.
The closing paragraph should reiterate the circumstances that led to the termination. At this point in the process, the employee should have been interviewed by a manager or human resources director and know that his employment is being terminated. While the first section of the letter should describe the incident or actions that led to the dismissal and review any discussions that followed, the closing paragraph is where management's decisions are summarized.
Employers often use restrictive covenants to protect their business assets. Employees may be asked to sign noncompetition agreements, nondisclosure provisions or nonsolicitation contracts. Typically, the employee is asked to sign the agreement before starting her first day. In the event of a termination, it may be necessary to remind the employee of these obligations. The closing paragraph of the termination letter is an ideal place for such a reminder. Including this information in the closing section may not be enough to protect the employer; in every termination involving a restrictive covenant, the employee should be reminded of the obligation during the meeting leading up to termination to best ensure that a court upholds the provision, if it's challenged.
Not every termination letter is the final say on the matter. Depending on the circumstances, the employer may give the employee a final chance. If this is the case, the closing paragraph of the termination letter should describe what the employee can do to change the circumstances. For example, if the employee is terminated for excessive absences, the closing paragraph could state that the employer may reconsider the matter if the employee can provide valid excuses for the absences within a specified time.
Above all else, the tone of the letter and the closing in particular should be professional and courteous. Ex-employees rely on the letter of termination when fighting denials of unemployment compensation or bringing cases of unlawful termination. But the letter of termination is definitive proof of an adverse employment action. Keeping the letter professional, objective and free of colorful, emotional language will improve the employer's chance of being seen as fair and unbiased.