JCK 5: Best Practices When Letting an Employee Go

So you have an employee who’s just not working out. Letting people go is one of the most unpleasant tasks a small business owner shoulders—and one of the most potentially litigious. Which is why we asked Suzanne DeVries, president of jewelry staffing firm Diamond Staffing Solutions, what issues should be top of mind when informing staffers that their services will no longer be required.

  1. Be mindful of state laws. Every state has different rules and regulations and you need to familiarize yourself with the laws. Check with your Labor Board. So many states are at-will employee states, but there’s always a process for firing people.
  2. Never, ever fire someone without a witness in the room. If the employee comes back and says that you said something that you didn’t, you have someone there who can [corroborate] your story.
  3. You need to have good documentation of the employee’s [shortcomings]. I think it’s unfair, unless it’s for cause, to just bring someone in and fire them and not have given them warning and told them where they can improve. Give them the opportunity to fix it. People rise to the occasion. You’d be amazed what you can see from people when they know their jobs are on the line.
  4. If it’s a long-term employee you’re letting go, you want to think about giving them an exit package—something like two weeks pay. If someone is stealing from you, it’s just “ta-ta, goodbye.”
  5. Be very concise when letting someone go. Don’t get into a big dissertation. You can get tripped up on your words if you go on and on. Cut to the chase. Something like, “We’re here today because we’re going to let you go. Things aren’t working out because of this or that. Here are your exit pages.” Keep it really that simple. Then say, “Thank you for your service.” Then stand up to signify that the meeting is over. Keep your emotions out of it.
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JCK Magazine Editor