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There is no right time to fire someone, but there is a right way. Or, at the very least, there are ways to avoid doing it wrong. Doing it wrong can have dire/expensive consequences, and many employers have a constant fear of getting sued.

Most of the time, the decision to fire someone should not be made on the fly. But, if a situation arises where an employee requires termination right away, employers should ask themselves a few questions before bringing that employee into the boardroom. HR training can help employers learn how to handle these situations as they arise, but here are a few places to start.


Try asking yourself the following questions before moving forward.

Do you have a handbook?
Every company should have a handbook; a document that establishes standards of behaviors and outlines consequences for not following those standards. Putting these expectations in writing could be your best safety net when it comes to firing someone. Distribute handbooks to all employees and ask them to sign a document stating they have read, and agree with, those expectations. Then, if expectations are not met, there is no room for claims of ignorance.

Is the charge well-documented?
If an employee has been consistently showing up late, causing problems, not doing their job, or have been in direct violation of guidelines laid out in the handbook, make sure to document each instance. If there is a pattern of behavior that can be shown during the termination process, it will be easier to fight any allegations of unnecessary termination. Documented violations can cover you if an employee claims discrimination.

Do you make exceptions for some and not others?
Even if you don’t intend to, making exceptions for some and not others can look like unfair treatment due to age, gender or other traits covered under discrimination laws. If there are disciplinary actions listed in the handbook for violating company policy, make sure you enforce those actions - for everyone and in every instance.

Have you reviewed the situation?
Acting brashly can be the quickest way to a legal dispute down the road. Before you fire someone, take a breath. Answer the questions above and take some time to look into the situation, reviewing any evidence that could be used to show your case for termination. If you’re not sure what the situation looks like from the outside (could it look like you are firing them due to age, race and gender or disability?) call a trusted counsel, like your human resources company.

Handle the situation with care.
If you’ve answered the above the questions and are still confident the situation needs to end in termination, make sure to handle it delicately.

Here are a few ways to help the termination process go smoothly:
   - Be brief
   - Be accurate
   - Don’t sugar coat it
   - Communicate all Options (COBRA benefits, last paycheck, unemployment options and
     transportability of other insurance and confirm in writing)

While the “Employment At Will” Policy, adopted by many states, allows employers to end employment for no reason at all, meaning you probably could fire someone today if you needed to, you still need to be careful, understand the policy, examine your reasons for firing that person and stay within the law.

Note: While this blog is meant to offer helpful advice, it is not official, legal advice. If you have any questions regarding the information mentioned or need additional legal advice, you should contact your attorney.