Is it Illegal to Fire Someone Over the Phone?
- On 10 July 2023
- Posted by Chantal Mariotti
Terminating an employee is never a fun thing to do. It places an end to the employee/employer relationship and it’s the worst thing that can happen to any employee – being terminated involuntarily. But is it illegal to terminate that employee by phone?
The short answer is no – It is not illegal. However, try to place yourself in the employees’ shoes. Would you like to be terminated over the phone? Probably not, especially if you’ve worked for your employer a number of years.
These days however, many employees are working remotely, and often times, out of State. It wouldn’t be practical to meet face to face with your employee to terminate him/her. Therefore, termination by phone will have to do.
In California, it is vital that the following topics be covered when terminating your employee, be it in person, or by phone:
Final Check (Required). In California, the final paycheck must be given to the employee at the time of termination. The final paycheck must include pay for all hours worked, or required to be paid for, as well as any earned/accrued vacation time pay, if your company offers vacation benefits. Do Not Wait until the next payroll run! The final check must be paid immediately. If the termination occurs by phone, the check can be direct deposited (if previously paid that way), or, sent via Fed Ex, with the date of shipment marked the date of the termination. Maintain that receipt in the employee file for safekeeping.
Provide a Change in Relationship Form (Required). You can find this on the internet if you don’t have one. It will list the date and reason for the termination. There is also an area to place your “comments”. The form requires that the employee and employer sign this form, but how to do that over the phone? Make sure you have all of your documents ready if terminating by phone and email those documents to the employee at the time of termination. If the employee refuses to sign the form, not a problem. You can simply state that the employee “refused to sign” – You’ll have your email record that you did provide him/her this document.
EDD Brochure for the Unemployed (Required). Provide the employee this brochure so that they are well informed as to their rights for unemployment benefits. Whether they are eligible for those benefits or not, that is not your concern. The Employment Development Department (EDD) will figure that out. You just need to make sure that the employee is provided with that information. You can visit https://hrcalifornia.calchamber.com/ for all required termination forms.
COBRA Information (Required). If you provide your employees with health benefits, and if the terminating employee opted for those benefits, then you are required to inform the employee that he/she can continue benefiting from that insurance.
Exit Checklist (An HR Best Practice). The exit checklist lists all of the documents above, and confirms that you, the company, have followed all of the required processes for the termination. The exit checklist may also list the company property that the employee has, and that is required to be returned. For example, a cell phone, a laptop, keys, ID badge, etc… The employee then signs this document to show that he/she returned all company property in his/her possession. The exit checklist also typically has an area where the terminating employee can indicate a forwarding address. This way, when year end comes along and you mail the employee their W2 form, it won’t come back undeliverable if they have moved.
Exit Interview (An HR Best Practice). The exit interview form should be provided only to those employees who voluntarily resign, and not to those you are involuntarily terminating for cause. By keeping accurate records as to why your employees are voluntarily leaving your employ, you may find out that certain information regarding your supervisors, managers, benefits or work practices, giving you an opportunity for coaching, or workplace improvements.
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