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Termination meetings must include civility, easy exit

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Even when someone clearly deserves to be fired, terminations are the toughest tasks for managers and HR. But how you conduct the actual discharge can mean the difference between an amicable parting and a messy lawsuit.

One often-overlooked decision: choosing the right setting for the discharge meeting.

An angry supervisor can easily trigger a so-called “false imprisonment” lawsuit if the supervisor berates the employee and blocks that person from leaving the room. This often happens when the boss “demands answers” about the employee’s misconduct.

Advice: Use a location that’s private yet accessible so employees outside the room can testify that there was no yelling. Allow the employee to sit by the door. Proceed in a calm manner, avoiding raised voices and dramatics. Let the employee leave whenever he or she wants.

Recent case: The chief of staff for an Ohio courthouse called administrative assistant Peggy Ripley into a conference room to discuss alleged improper time records. Ripley said the boss screamed at her, pounded on the table and told her she couldn’t leave until she resigned.

She did resign. Soon after, she sued her employer and her boss, claiming false imprisonment. The employer eventually won because Ripley was free to leave during the meeting. But the mishandled firing cost the employer much time, money and bad publicity. (Ripley v. Montgomery, et al., No. 07AP-6, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 2007)

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