Firing Right — Part 1
There are procedures to follow when terminating someone for performance issues and repeated policy violations.
By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor
No business owner or manager likes to terminate an employee, but sometimes it is necessary. And when must be done, it is important that the termination be carried out properly.
A dealer’s entrepreneurial skills that have served him well in growing his business can be a liability when it comes to dealing with employee issues, according to Chris Durham, attorney at Duane Morris. “I think sometimes dealers don’t appreciate the fact that [employee relations] is one of those areas where you really need to take a step back and make sure your ducks are in a row before moving forward with something like terminating an employee.”
Dealers need to develop policies and procedures regarding human relations issues including those regarding non-discrimination, retaliation, discipline and performance expectations. In addition, managers need to be trained on these issues as well.
“This is an investment that pays off in spades when you are able to avoid liability down the road or at least significantly reduce the risk of liability going forward,” Durham says. “It is a lot cheaper to some policies and procedures in place and conduct the necessary training then it is when someone sues you and you incur ligation costs.”
The type of policies and procedures to follow will depend on the situation, but regardless of the situation, Durham’s mantra is: document, document, document. This is especially important for issues that lead to termination, which is where you are most likely to end up in litigation.
Part 1 of the Firing Right series will focus on performance and repeated policy violations. These are situations where the employee’s performance is not up to snuff, they are repeatedly late or their attendance is poor.
“These are not immediate issues justifying termination, but become issues over a period of time and might ultimately lead to termination,” Durham says.
“Here it is important not to be lulled to sleep, not to just allow these things to build up to a breaking point and then realize you have not taken the necessary steps nor documented the problem properly.”
The first time there is an issue with an employee’s performance, you need to document it. Durham says you can use a memo to the file that states that expectations are not being met. It should give specific examples of when the expectations are not being met.
The next step is addressing the issue with the employee. “You want to sit down with the employee and make him aware that there is an issue,” Durham says. “Often employees don’t believe there is an issue. They believe their performance is acceptable. There is an astounding number of employees who believe it is acceptable to be late for work.”