Firing Right —Part 2

Denise Rondini June 28, 2012

The time spent investigating and documenting conduct  issues can protect you later.

By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor


It is never easy to fire an employee, yet sometimes it is necessary because of conduct issues that occur. This includes things like harassment, theft or threats of violence. According to Chris Durham, attorney at Duane Morris, these types of incidents must be investigated before any action is taken.

These incidents often are brought to management’s attention by another employee, although in some cases a manager may observe the behavior.

“It is important to have an investigation conducted by a member of the management team, preferably someone in the human resources department or at smaller dealerships where there is no HR department by the person who handles the HR function,” he says.

Immediately upon being made aware of the problem, document the complaint and do not delay with conducting the investigation. “A delay can lead to a number of problems. It can lead to a recurrence of the conduct and in the case of harassment of threats of violence it can lead to the harassed or threatened employee quitting and suing the dealership because you did not do anything about the problem,” Durham says.

Interview the complainant or the manager who observed the behavior first. It is important to gather the facts and identify any witnesses to the incident so you can speak with whoever else might have knowledge of the issue. Document those interviews as well.

“There are a couple of ways to do that,” Durham says. “You can document with interview notes, which I assume you would be taking. You can document with a file memo, which is drawn up based on the interviewer’s notes.”

Another option is written statements. “You can either have the witness being interviewed prepare a written statement or you can write one for the witness and ask him or her to review it for accuracy and sign it,” he says.

In cases where you think a witness has made allegations that he may back track on at a later date, Durham suggests getting them on the record with a written statement.

After interviewing the initial complainant, you will need to decide whether or not to interview the accused person to other witnesses first. “If you feel you have enough to go on  to confront the accused with, you may want to interview him or her first and get their take on it because they will provide some insight into the issue and also may point you to some other witnesses,” he says.

In instances where the complaint is vague or the complainant has identified a lot of witnesses, you may want to talk to those witnesses first so you have a fuller picture before going to the accused person to learn their side of the story.

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