Employee Discipline and Terminations: Termination Process

September 28, 2017 | Leave a Comment

 

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Terminations are unpleasant, but avoiding them can lead to bigger issues in your workplace, including lower morale and efficiency.

Base the termination process on objective and well-documented facts and details, including statements from any individuals involved.

To limit the risk of litigation following a termination, follow the disciplinary process. The decision to terminate an employee should not be done on impulse and should be weighed against the severity of the issue and the number of written warnings given prior to the offense.

If the problem behavior meets the requirements outlined in the employee handbook and company policies, use the following steps to limit your risk and ensure the least amount of disruption to operations.

To prepare for the termination meeting:

  • Gather copies of important documents or information that the employee may need, including information on COBRA and severance packages
  • Assess any security issues that may arise during the meeting or as the employee is leaving
  • Make a list of any company equipment, technology, or proprietary information that the employee must return before exiting the building

Keep these points in mind during the meeting:

  • Meet in a neutral location and try to conduct the meeting at the beginning or end of the day when there are fewer employees around. This helps provide a less embarrassing situation for the employee who is being terminated
  • Treat the individual with dignity and respect
  • Allow the employee to express concern about the decision, but do not be swayed
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the employee’s final paycheck, unused vacation time, benefits, etc. In some states, a final paycheck must be provided to the employee at the time of termination
  • Do not promise the individual another job opportunity within the organization or otherwise
  • While a witness is not always necessary, often you may feel more confident or secure having another supervisor or HR representative present

After the meeting is finished, do the following:

  • Collect all company property, including keys to the building, laptops, cell phones and company credit cards.
  • Don’t embarrass the employee by having them escorted out by security (unless the reason for termination was due to a violent offense or there is a true safety concern)

When all is said and done, even when you think you’ve done everything to mitigate the risks, employee claims can still happen. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, and they do happen.

Employment practices liability (EPL) insurance can be your next line of defense. EPL insurance protects your company from costs associated with employee lawsuits. Contact your Cornerstone Consultant for more information on preventing losses due to employee claims.

This is the final edition of a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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Employee Discipline and Terminations: Objective Disciplinary System

September 14, 2017 | 1 Comment

Objective Discipline

Developing policies for discipline and termination is a great way to prevent employee claims, especially when the policies are clearly communicated to new hires and maintained throughout the company.

Another preventative measure to take is to follow an objective, pre-determined disciplinary process when the need to discipline an employee arises. Work with your risk management, HR, and leadership teams to establish a mutually agreed upon process.

Typically, the first measure an employer or HR manager should take when beginning the discipline process is to investigate the incident or problem behavior. Depending on the severity of the situation, the employee may need to be suspended during this investigation to prevent any further misconduct or business interruption.

Once more information is gathered, schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the issue at hand and hear their side of the story. This discussion with the employee will provide an opportunity for you to discuss the consequences they will face if the problematic behavior continues, as well as a time for you to provide written documentation of any disciplinary action that occurs immediately. Have the employee sign the documentation and give a copy to the employee for their records.

In two or three weeks, schedule another meeting with the employee to follow up on their progress.

This is the third in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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Employee Discipline and Terminations: Types of Employee Claims

September 06, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Awareness of the various types of employee claims will help your company prepare for any possible litigation.

Employees can make internal, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or Human Rights Campaign complaints, or file a lawsuit against the employer with a formal Complaint and Summons.

Discrimination: According to the EEOC, nearly 100,000 discrimination charges are filed against employers annually. During the disciplinary or termination process, an employee from a protected class can allege that he or she is being treated worse than other employees, based on a reason relating to their protected class status than other employees. Protected classes are defined by federal, state and local governments and are based on factors including: race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, familial status, disability status, veteran status and genetic information. While some states have broadly defined protected classes, other states’ laws are very detailed, including protection for sexual orientations, marital status, and political views.

Harassment: While discrimination claims are centered on mistreatment in official company actions, harassment claims revolve around interpersonal relationships in the workplace. These claims include verbal or physical harassment.

Retaliation: Recent changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, especially regarding the Whistleblower provision, could lead to an increase in the number of employees who will claim they’ve been disciplined or terminated in retaliation for whistleblowing on the company.

Wrongful Termination: Employees can file claims if they believe they were wrongly terminated for an illegal reason or for a reason that violates the company’s policy. Some examples include breach of contract and constructive discharge.

Post-termination: Some employees file lawsuits after they’ve been terminated, claiming that the termination resulted in defamation, blacklisting or undue emotional distress.

This is the second in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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Recent Overtime Law Is Officially Over

September 01, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Following an injunction from November 2016, the Obama-era revisions to the FLSA Overtime regulations are now officially off the table. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant ruled in favor of more than 55 business groups who challenged the 2016 changes, which would’ve more than doubled the minimum annual salary required to qualify employees for overtime exemption.

Employees must still satisfy three criteria to qualify for overtime exemption:

  1. The employee must be paid on a salaried basis
  2. The employee must meet the minimum salaried threshold – which now remains at $23,660/annually
  3. The employee must meet the duties criteria as defined by the Department of Labor. Click here to view a brief overview of these exemptions.

Employers are encouraged to prepare for a salary increase eventually, as many agree the minimum threshold is outdated and needs to be increased, but experts advise it will not be to the level proposed in the 2016 bill.  To date, there are no changes planned.

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