Terminating employees for performance should never be a surprise. As an employer, you should always follow the correct procedures when terminating an employee. If the termination is due to poor work performance, make sure that you have coached the employee about that performance, and that your communications have been documented. In the event an employees’ performance does not improve, then documented progressive disciplinary action should take place which may ultimately lead to termination of employment. Letting go of an employee can be troubling for both parties involved but also necessary at times, especially if your business is negatively impacted.
The day you are in court arguing why you needed to terminate an employee, you must be prepared. If it's not written down, it did not happen! It is essential that you always document what is discussed and what occurs when you meet with your employees to discuss their work performance. These documents and records can provide evidence that you spoke to your employees about their work performance and that you have a valid reason for letting them go. This will greatly reduce the possibility of your facing a lawsuit from a terminated employee and give you all of the back-up documentation you need, in the event they do pursue legal action.
Limit your liability. You don’t want your employee to submit a wrongful discharge claim or subject your company to costly legal liabilities, which is why you need to know exactly what to do when it comes to handling these dismissals. There are many different reasons an employer might need to terminate an employee, and poor work performance is one of them. Regardless of the number of employees you have on payroll, always make sure that you document work performance or behaviors, and any conversations you may have had with them in this regard. On-going and honest communication with your employees is essential. Make sure that any documented performance evaluation form mirrors the employees’ “true performance”.
Document poor work performance via progressive, documented discipline; (verbal, written, suspension). Follow the correct progressive disciplinary steps and protect yourself in the event you need to terminate an employee. Always have enough evidence of an employee’s misconduct, or poor work performance so you have supported and documented evidence when you need to terminate the employee. Apply the same rules to all employees, all the time; be consistent in your disciplinary process. Follow the established disciplinary steps and those poor performers will eventually self-destruct.
Provide the employee with a copy of the documentation. Doing so will ensure they are aware of the situation, and what the consequences will be if their work performance does not improve; set and document your expectations for their improvement. The idea is to coach the employee to success. If the employee does not want to sign the disciplinary action acknowledgement of receipt, simply have another person in the office witness that the document was provided to the employee and have that person sign the document. Make sure to write at the bottom of the disciplinary action form that "immediate and sustained improvement is required/expected.”
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