How to Fire an Employee

How To Fire Someone

June 5th, 2019

Learning how to terminate an employee is just as important as hiring great employees. Not knowing how to fire someone properly can land your company in an expensive legal minefield. Below we cover how to fire an employee legally and answer frequently asked questions.

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Reasons to Fire Someone:

1. Termination for behavior.

Behavioral issues are a common reason for firing somoene. If management has put in the time to try to correct bad behavior and documented it, but the problem continues or worsens, it's time to let the employee go. Allowing bad behavior to continue after warnings sets a bad example and hurts morale.

2. Termination for performance.

Employees who cannot meet performance goals are often terminated after being given a chance to improve. If training and reviews haven't worked, it's a sign that they may just be in the wrong position. If you can't move them into another position, it's time to terminate.

3. Termination for bad attitude.

Termination for bad attitude may be tough, legally speaking. If the employee works at-will, you may be best not giving a reason. If the employee is not at-will, and must be fired for cause, you'll need to document specific examples of the attitude problems first.

4. Termination for insubordination.

If an employee refuses to carry out duties that are part of the job description, refuses to carry out a lawful and ethical directive by management, or disrespectful toward a manager or supervisor, it's time to consider terminating for insubordination. You'll want to carefully document any instances of it.

5. Termination for sexual harassment.

Employers who do not heed sexual harassment complaints risk being held liable for a hostile work environment. If there is specific evidence, document it well. If an employee works at-will, and evidence is unclear, it may be best to fire without giving a reason.

6. Termination for attendance.

If employee attendance consistently violates company policy, it may be time to fire them. Be sure to document each case of it, and make the employee aware of the consequences of continued absences or tardiness.

7. Terminating for bullying.

Workplace bullying, or workplace harassment, in the form of unwelcome, hostile behavior, is often a reason for termination. Document all complaints about it, and make the consequences clear.

8. Termination for safety violations.

Terminating an employee for saftey violations can be risky, even if merited, because it can potentially be seen as retaliating against an employee for reporting safety issues. Get legal assistance if safety issues are leading you to consider firing someone.

Other situations may precipitate a firing as well, such as a serious code of conduct breach, or when an employee simply stops showing up, in which case you have a job abandonment.

Final Thoughts:

In the end, terminating an employee is not going to be enjoyable, and you probably won't feel great about yourself afterward. That's just part of being human. If you've created a solid process around terminating employees though, this will ultimately be a better situation for you and your co-workers.


How To Fire An Employee

How do I terminate my employee?

  1. Revisit performance reviews.
  2. Document issues, and make the employee aware of them.
  3. Schedule another review.
  4. Give them a probation period to fix the problems.
  5. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to firing.
  6. Keep the termination meeting short, stick to the facts, be clear and firm.
  7. Incentivize them to sign a release.
  8. Have them leave the premises immediately.
Termination For Cause

What does termination for cause mean?

Termination for cause is when an employee is fired for a specific reason. This includes violating laws, violating the employee code of conduct, threatening or harassing colleagues or clients, unethical behavior, unsafe behavior and more.

Can I just fire someone?

If your employees fall under at-will employment, you can fire them for any reason, or no reason at all. However, you cannot fire employees for discriminatory reasons such as age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, disability, etc., or if the employee is under contract, in which case the terms of the contract will apply.

Is there a "how to fire someone" letter?

You are not obliged to provide the terminated employee with any documentation, however many companies provide an employee termination letter out of courtesy.

Can I fire someone on probation?

Under the at-will doctrine, an employer may terminate an employee at any time, even during a probationary period. Before considering termination, you might want to place the employee on a performance improvement plan to rectify their behavior.

How do I fire someone who is not a good fit?

  1. Ensure that your claim against the employee is not discriminatory in any way.
  2. Document their performance and point out any issues to them.
  3. Follow your company policy on termination.
  4. Schedule a meeting to review their performance.
  5. Check-in with the employee during probation.
  6. Schedule a meeting to terminate them, and have someone from HR or another manager present to act as a witness.
  7. Incentivize them to sign a release form, releasing your company from any liability.

What are the fair reasons for dismissal?

Refer to our guide above.

Do employers have to give written warnings before firing someone?

No, but only if they're at-will employees. If the employee has signed an employment contract that stipulates their duration of work, firing them without warning might be considered wrongful termination. However, if the contract specifies a code of conduct and the employee infringes these rules, it can be considered grounds for dismissal.