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Things to consider when laying off employees

There’s an aspect of being a boss that few employers enjoy – like firing an employee. Here are some tips to keep in mind when laying off any employee.

What should you consider before firing an employee?

Think things through. Before deciding to fire an employee, make sure you have thought carefully. If an employee is being accused of incompetence by a supervisor, ask for documentation of the incompetence. This will not only confirm the supervisor’s opinion, but will protect you in the future if the employee questions your decision.

Is the dismissal for a valid reason? You can get in serious trouble if you fire an employee for the sole reason that you have informed the authorities that you are violating laws designed to protect the rights and safety of workers. The ramifications of violating a “whistleblower” statute are far greater than the cost to you of having to retain (and maintain a relationship with) an employee who accuses you of wrongdoing.

Example: Minnesota has specific statutes and laws that make it illegal for an employer to fire employees who testify against the employer in minimum wage enforcement disputes, who participate in a union, or whose wages are withheld for child support or other garnishment reasons. . Additionally, employers cannot “penalize” employees for jury duty and cannot “retaliate” against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims, safety complaints, wage complaints, or for reporting (or refusing to participate) activities. illegal.

Example: California employers violate state law if they fire an employee for testifying as a witness or for revealing the amount of their wages to someone else.

Don’t make it personal. If you fire someone for the sole reason that they are Jewish, gay, or female, you may face a serious lawsuit for job discrimination and wrongful termination.

Create a paper record of employee performance reviews.

Keep copies of all negative reports or warnings you have issued to the employee.

Note: If you have written policies regarding poor performance reviews or policies regarding employee disciplinary procedures for insubordination or inappropriate conduct, make sure you have followed them to the letter before attempting to fire an employee for those reasons.

Keep the information confidential.

Determine who is on a need-to-know basis and tell only those individuals that an employee is going to be laid off. Ask those people to keep the information confidential.

Consider all the legal requirements that you must meet and be sure to comply with them.

For example, if the employee receives compensation or commissions, figure those figures before meeting with him or her to discuss the layoff. Have all documents (such as compensation offers, which require a written acknowledgment of receipt) on hand.

Arrange for the necessary parties to be present at the meeting.

If you want the employee’s supervisor to be available to support your position as to why an employee should be fired, consider having that supervisor present for all (or part of) the meeting. If you need to have your human resources employee available to explain the employee’s rights to continuation health insurance coverage, or other similar matters, have that person ready.

Arrange for your meeting to be in a private location.

The firing process is likely to be annoying or embarrassing enough for the employee, without having all the surveillance of the office through the glass wall of the conference room.

Be upfront with your reasons for firing the employee.

Don’t say “well, gosh, I think you’re doing a good job but it doesn’t seem like I’m seeing the results I need.” A statement like this will only give the employee false hope that he might get a second chance and could provide food for a subsequent lawsuit if he feels that you did not tell him the real reasons why he was fired.

Ask for the keys or access cards of the employee to the building.

If you feel that laid-off employees may be disruptive, or may harm other people, accompany them to their desks or workstations and make sure they exit the building safely. If you are concerned that they might return to the building to cause more trouble, consider alerting building security or changing the locks and access codes to make sure they can no longer enter.

Post-fire considerations.

Be careful not to put the employee down in front of his former co-workers. Such an attitude will rarely be perceived as professional and can be a serious deterrent to employee morale, particularly if the employee was well liked by his co-workers.


If you are in the middle of laying off an employee, remember that he or she may be entitled to unemployment compensation or other benefits. You may be able to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit by seeking the advice of a competent attorney.