Q. We recently decided to terminate an employee based on performance concerns. The employee is in sales and is required to cold call a certain number of individuals each day. In reviewing the daily call logs, the employee’s manager discovered that she has been calling the same disconnected number over and over again. Not only was this behavior dishonest, but it also violated a specific company policy. To top it off, she sent an email telling other employees they could do the same. In preparing for the termination meeting, I’m wondering what we should say?
A. For some time, the default approach to termination meetings was to simply tell the employee that the termination was adecision and to provide very little additional information.
More and more, however, employers are moving toward providing greater detail about their reasons.
The rationale behind a generic approach is well intentioned: To avoid possible defamation claims and avoid getting the company boxed in about the reason for the termination. Although that can sometimes work, the generic approach may result in more legal challenges when an employee doesn’t understand the reasons for the termination, and assumes that it must have been for unfair or unlawful reasons.
In the scenario that you’ve outlined, I would recommend that you confront the employee with the facts. Provide a copy of the call log, as well as the email that the employee sent to other sales representatives. If the email was obtained by monitoring the employee’s email, make sure you had a policy in place that permitted monitoring before you use it as evidence.
Unless you learn something during your meeting that causes you to change your mind about the termination, explain that because of her actions, the company has decided to end her employment. If the employee tries to argue with you about the decision, explain that the decision is final and that the purpose of the meeting is to inform her of that decision, not to debate it.
In this instance, by providing the employee with the specific reason for the termination and the documentation to support it, you reduce the risk that she will question whether the decision was made for unlawful reasons. In addition, if your company wants to contest the employee’s unemployment benefits, you will be in a better position to do so.
Another word of caution: If your company has decided that this type of policy violation merits termination, be certain to consistently apply that discipline in similar circumstances.
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