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How to fire an employee
Tonearm




msg:4502834
 6:33 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have 3 employees currently and I've had about 5 others, but they all had to leave the company because they moved away. I've never had to fire anyone. A particular employee makes mistake after mistake, doesn't follow instructions well, and continuously stresses me out.

What is the best procedure to follow when considering firing an employee? Should I be issuing him warnings which he is required to sign?

 

lucy24




msg:4502843
 7:00 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

"I don't think you're right for this company. We'll call Friday the {two weeks from now, or shortest time prescribed by law, whichever is later} your last day." Be sure to check applicable laws; there may be special rules about how long you can make a terminated employee wait for their final paycheck.

If you're lucky, they'll say "### that-- I quit!"

Why bother with warnings? This does not sound like an employee who has a very rapid learning curve. Warnings are for overall acceptable people who occasionally do something unacceptable.

Tonearm




msg:4502858
 7:53 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Shouldn't a terminated employee not be allowed to continue working at the company at all? I can imagine someone with "nothing to lose" could exhibit pretty bad behavior. Isn't it legal (California for example) to fire someone on the spot?

I think the point of the signed warnings is to avoid paying for unemployment somehow? Can anyone shed light on this? I'd really like to avoid paying unemployment in case he loses his other job as well.

topr8




msg:4502876
 8:56 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

>>Warnings are for overall acceptable people who occasionally do something unacceptable.

not in the uk, warnings are a legal requirement for all.

lucy24




msg:4502880
 9:05 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Isn't it legal (California for example) to fire someone on the spot?

Yes, in the US it is legal to fire someone on a moment's notice. Like factory workers picking up their paychecks and finding an additional piece of paper that says "We won't be needing you any more".

But in some places-- including California-- you then have to be ready with their final paycheck within something like 24 hours. (Look it up. IANAL.) But if you make them mad, that gives them two weeks to storm out with an "I quit!" and then you're off the hook because they left before your notice ran out.

But in any case you're not personally, out of your own pocket paying their unemployment. (Uh... you have been paying into unemployment insurance haven't you? I though employers were required to. Like disability. Self-insurance is for huge companies with hundreds or thousands of workers.*) Unless it's just the principle that exasperates you.

not in the uk, warnings are a legal requirement for all.

Heh. You've probably still got banns too ;)


* Technically a "small business" is anything up to 50 employees, but to most people hereabouts that definition is probably just a bad joke.

piatkow




msg:4502893
 9:57 am on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)


not in the uk, warnings are a legal requirement for all.

IIRC there are a limited number of valid reasons for instant dismissal (eg punching a customer or colleague).

Legal matters aside, if you hadn't picked up the poor performance before it got to this stage then you really do need to review your own management style.

p5gal5




msg:4503053
 4:24 pm on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

IANAL...but...

Usually the three-warning system (verbal, written, final written) is done to provide documentation to prevent unemployment collection or have evidence against a claim. While verbal warnings are just that - verbal - you would still document them on paper.

With a warning system, you would need to allow enough time (usually 1-2 months) between each warning to allow time for improvement to CYA. If they are still unable to to meet the expectations set/discussed, you'll have evidence to refute a possible unemployment claim.

If you've never had anyone else collect unemployment and you've been paying into unemployment insurance, I wouldn't worry about just firing them when you want to - at least not for this first claim. When we've let people go, whether they've been on corrective action or not, we give two weeks pay and send them on their way (don't want someone in-house who knows the end is near). 3-6 months is a long time to wait for a small business, and they can still file (and you would have to contest their claim - sometimes a lengthy process. Since the recession started, companies contesting unemployment claims has skyrocketed). Unemployement insurance rates (at least ours - US-based company) are based off a 5-year rolling period of claims vs. total payroll.

I'd check with an employment attorney before making any final decisions. For us, the first claim was fine - the second one, however, was the painful one. If your payroll has changed substantially in the timeframe since your unemployment insurance was first issued/quoted, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. My completely non-legal advice would be to cut this person loose and employ a more rigid corrective action system in the future.

LifeinAsia




msg:4503069
 4:59 pm on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

It all depends on your local labor laws. Does the employee have a contract (written or implied)? If so, is the employer/employee relationship specified as at-will? What does your employee handbook say regarding termination?

if you hadn't picked up the poor performance before it got to this stage then you really do need to review your own management style.

I'd have to agree with this- if you haven't let the employee know before now that the mistakes are an issue, you're definitely asking for trouble.

p5gal5




msg:4503082
 5:33 pm on Oct 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

The contract is a good point and one I had overlooked. You may want to research and see if your state is employment-at-will (mine is) and whether or not a contract can override this:
[en.wikipedia.org...]

Tonearm




msg:4503875
 7:41 am on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

@lucy24

But if you make them mad, that gives them two weeks to storm out with an "I quit!" and then you're off the hook because they left before your notice ran out.

I'm not sure what you mean. Where do the two weeks come from?

But in any case you're not personally, out of your own pocket paying their unemployment.

I don't think that's true. I called the CA EDD about this a little while back. From what I remember, the way it works in CA is every employer has an EDD reserve account which they pay into every time they pay payroll taxes. When an unemployment claim is granted against you, the money comes out of your reserve account and you must replenish it. When the guy on the phone finished with his explanation, I said something like "so in a roundabout way, I end up paying the benefits" and he said yes.

(Uh... you have been paying into unemployment insurance haven't you? I though employers were required to. Like disability. Self-insurance is for huge companies with hundreds or thousands of workers.*)

Yes, it's part of payroll taxes in CA. It's on the same form.

@piatkow:

Legal matters aside, if you hadn't picked up the poor performance before it got to this stage then you really do need to review your own management style.

Agreed. I need to be harder-nosed about this sort of thing I suppose. I think issuing written warnings will make a big difference.

@p5gal5

When we've let people go, whether they've been on corrective action or not, we give two weeks pay and send them on their way (don't want someone in-house who knows the end is near).

Is the two weeks pay a requirement or do you do it to be nice?

3-6 months is a long time to wait for a small business, and they can still file (and you would have to contest their claim - sometimes a lengthy process.

Where does 3-6 months come from?

For us, the first claim was fine - the second one, however, was the painful one.

It sounds like you're dealing with an insurance company for unemployment insurance. In California it's built into payroll taxes so that's new to me.

@LifeinAsia:

Does the employee have a contract (written or implied)? If so, is the employer/employee relationship specified as at-will?

There is no contract, and employment is at-will as we're a US company.

I'm thinking I'll give him a written warning and require him to sign it. I won't let anything slide going forward, and if he racks up two more warnings (the third one specified as "final") he will be in last-straw territory. Then if I fire him and he claims unemployment, I will have documentation with which to dispute the claim. What do you guys think?

In the future, I'll be much quicker to use a written warning. How soon after hiring someone would you subject them to the possibility of a written warning?

lucy24




msg:4503985
 12:16 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Where do the two weeks come from?

From you. Unless there's some kind of contract you're not required to give any notice at all. But it can be to your advantage to do so.

p5gal5




msg:4504026
 2:06 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is the two weeks pay a requirement or do you do it to be nice?


We sort-of do it to be nice, but there's also an ulterior motive. If you give them two weeks pay, it pushes out the point at which they can start to file/claim unemployment insurance, which increases the probability they will find alternate work. So, for example, if you offered them 4 or 6 weeks pay (you would need to pay at regular payroll intervals instead of a lump sum), you would push out the timeframe they could apply for unemployment by 4 or 6 weeks, respectively.


Where does 3-6 months come from?


The 3-6 months comes from 3 corrective action warnings (verbal, written, final written) * whatever timeframe you need to see the improvement in (1 month, 2 months) per corrective action. If you're going to contest an unemployment claim because they were incompetent or careless in their job performance, you need to show that they were corrected/counseled and given the opportunity to improve their performance.

p5gal5




msg:4504033
 2:24 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

As an aside, this all sounds very...pessimistic, I suppose...but you simply plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Usually there seems to be three types of people that you put on corrective action:
1. Those who will ignore you, make no changes
2. Those who didn't realize how poor their performance was was and really treat it as a wake-up call (ideal)
3. Those who take it as a personal offense and either a) start to perform worse or b) start to look for other work because they think the situation is beyond repair.

In 3a, these employees are usually pretty high-strung; I'd say this is the least likely possibility. If you've already talked to them a couple of times nonformally (and it sounds like you have), I'm going to guess they are either 1 or 3b.

TypicalSurfer




msg:4504035
 2:39 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't know Tonearm. If you made a bad hiring decision to begin with you might want to take the high road, recognize it and release the guy on good terms.

The soap opera of baiting a guy into quitting or trying to play cat and mouse with warnings, etc are bound to have a negative impact on your operation (morale, production, etc), probably more so than any UE claims he might make. It sounds like the guy actively seeks employment, you hired him right? Why assume he is heading straight for UE to somehow milk you?

It sounds like both of you would be better served with a friendly (as possible) termination.

LifeinAsia




msg:4504089
 4:08 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

employment is at-will as we're a US company.

Um, not necessarily true- it depends on your location. In California, lacking a contract more or less assumes at-will. But many other states have "implied contract" exceptions. And lawyers can pounce on anything in your employee handbook that even smells like being a contract for promise of employment.

Then if I fire him and he claims unemployment, I will have documentation with which to dispute the claim. What do you guys think?

If you terminate for cause, and follow the rules outlined in your employee handbook, then you can probably avoid having your reserve account charged.

How soon after hiring someone would you subject them to the possibility of a written warning?

Less than 1 microsecond. Once you're hired, you fall under all the company rules. Which, of course, should be well defined in the employee handbook.

LifeinAsia




msg:4504094
 4:13 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

So, for example, if you offered them 4 or 6 weeks pay (you would need to pay at regular payroll intervals instead of a lump sum), you would push out the timeframe they could apply for unemployment by 4 or 6 weeks, respectively.

This would depend on your local labor laws. In California, all payments must be made within 72 hours of termination. If you terminated the employee with a "4-week" severance package, but paid that package amount over 4 weeks, you could be hit with a "waiting penalty" equal to 1 day of the employee's salary until the final amount was paid (30 days max).

Tonearm




msg:4504356
 8:03 am on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

@TypicalSurfer

I don't know Tonearm. If you made a bad hiring decision to begin with you might want to take the high road, recognize it and release the guy on good terms.

The soap opera of baiting a guy into quitting or trying to play cat and mouse with warnings, etc are bound to have a negative impact on your operation (morale, production, etc), probably more so than any UE claims he might make. It sounds like the guy actively seeks employment, you hired him right? Why assume he is heading straight for UE to somehow milk you?

It sounds like both of you would be better served with a friendly (as possible) termination.

I appreciate what you're saying, and you may be right with this guy, but it sounds like you wouldn't bother with warnings in any scenario. Is that the case? I'm trying to come up with a procedure I can use to keep my employees performing well, and warnings make sense to me as a part of that procedure. You don't agree?

lucy24




msg:4504388
 9:23 am on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Warnings are only useful if they're about something concrete and verifiable, like

--arrive on time and don't leave early
--double-check the SKU before sending out the order
--when a supervisor talks to you, stop what you're doing and give them your undivided attention
--wear clean clothes

(just making things up there). If you simply want him to shape up, without any specifics, that's not likely to do any good.

How soon after hiring someone would you subject them to the possibility of a written warning?

Less than 1 microsecond. Once you're hired, you fall under all the company rules. Which, of course, should be well defined in the employee handbook.

I read this question from the other side. Sometimes new employees will be on probation for a while, meaning that you can dismiss them for any reason. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to go through several months of warnings if it was obvious within three days that they're not going to work out.

Tonearm




msg:4504396
 10:09 am on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks to everyone for your help with this. You're molding me into something that might one day begin to resemble a manager.

Sometimes new employees will be on probation for a while, meaning that you can dismiss them for any reason. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to go through several months of warnings if it was obvious within three days that they're not going to work out.

That's a great idea. I will make this part of the process with new hires. Does anyone not do this?

TypicalSurfer




msg:4504406
 10:49 am on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)


I appreciate what you're saying, and you may be right with this guy, but it sounds like you wouldn't bother with warnings in any scenario. Is that the case?


If I thought warnings would improve performance and mend the underlying issues I would use them. It sounded to me that the situation you have now is not salvageable.

p5gal5




msg:4504493
 2:09 pm on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

How soon after hiring someone would you subject them to the possibility of a written warning?

Of a written warning? I don't know...for us, we usually do at least a 30-60 day ramp-up period. Since a written warning would be the 2nd step, they technically wouldn't get a written until at least 4 months into employment.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to go through several months of warnings if it was obvious within three days that they're not going to work out.

This brings up an interesting point - we don't hire anyone directly, we go through a placement agency for (almost all) of our hires, so we "try before you buy" on almost all hourly/picking/packing/production type positions. We are a decent size, but not too big (not enough to constitute an hr person) so the whole hiring/firing/corrective action is a big PITA and done sparingly. We've migrated to the whole temp-to-hire placement model (the agencies will administer lots of tests - dexterity, typing, software skills, whatever you need) and they might cost a buck or two apiece for each employee you specify is up to snuff and that you'd like to interview.

It's pretty much an "employer's market" right now and we are getting surprisingly qualified and competent candidates through placement and temp agencies. We usually do 3 months before we decide if we are a right fit for each other (them for us, us for them). It's a higher rate of pay since the agency gets a percent, but much easier to let people go if they are simply not working. We've had people who seemed GREAT at first, but once they settled in after a month or so, simply weren't a good fit. We like to see how people behave past the "honeymoon phase", and going through a temp agency allows us to do that.

I talked to an owner of a 10m internet company who used nothing but temps. Permanently. Once they've gone past the 90 days, we bring them on, do benefits and all that good stuff, but he did not want any employees - had been burned in the past and didn't want anything to do with hr-type stuff. Even his president(!) of several years had a phd and was still an agency employee.

LifeinAsia




msg:4504557
 4:40 pm on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

You're molding me into something that might one day begin to resemble a manager.

Sorry about that. ;)

incrediBILL




msg:4504590
 7:01 pm on Oct 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

[business.ca.gov...]
California’s Labor Code specifies that an employment relationship with no specified duration is presumed to be employment “at-will.” This means, at least in theory, that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. There are exceptions to the at-will rule created by statute, the courts or public policy.


I think duration of employment and the nature of the mistakes being made should dictate how you handle the situation. I've done the written warnings for some people while others have been shown the door on a moments notice but they were very new, not a long time employee, or had some something VERY BAD.

Guess I'm more interested in what types of mistakes the person is making because sometimes it's the procedures and practices that need to be addressed to eliminate mistakes, not firing the employee. If there's any way you can put checks and balances in place that the employee can use to self-correct then it's a win-win, for this and future employees in that position.

However, if someone hired for a job such as a cashier makes constant mistakes counting money I'd either offer them a different position if available or bounce their ass out the door if they simply couldn't do the job.

Just do it as friendly as possible and certainly don't make the warning or firing come out of nowhere. Hopefully you've pointed out the problems already and this isn't something new that will blindside the person, like they may already expect it. When I've had similar situations I sat them down and discussed it, we made an action plan on how to correct it which was written and signed by both parties, with a future review date. That's a complete CYA and an actionable plan for the employee on how to succeed and sometimes that's all it takes to make a complete turnaround.

BTW, I you do fire the guy, disable all access and change all passwords immediately BEFORE announcing the good news to avoid any sabotage. One guy we fired wasn't shown the door immediately (big mistake) and managed to install remote access on his PC and remotely tunneled into one of our servers from home after being terminated so change ALL passwords. I would just give them 2 weeks severance and not let them work another two weeks after that incident.

Also, not to scare you, but someone my wife fired started stalking her, sending emails, postcards, showing up in the parking lot (and they lived a bit of a distance) and doing all sorts of crazy stuff that escalated to the point a lawyer got involved but I think short of filing a police report.

Tonearm




msg:4504816
 10:43 am on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

@p5gal5:

This brings up an interesting point - we don't hire anyone directly, we go through a placement agency for (almost all) of our hires, so we "try before you buy" on almost all hourly/picking/packing/production type positions. We are a decent size, but not too big (not enough to constitute an hr person) so the whole hiring/firing/corrective action is a big PITA and done sparingly. We've migrated to the whole temp-to-hire placement model (the agencies will administer lots of tests - dexterity, typing, software skills, whatever you need) and they might cost a buck or two apiece for each employee you specify is up to snuff and that you'd like to interview.

It's pretty much an "employer's market" right now and we are getting surprisingly qualified and competent candidates through placement and temp agencies. We usually do 3 months before we decide if we are a right fit for each other (them for us, us for them). It's a higher rate of pay since the agency gets a percent, but much easier to let people go if they are simply not working. We've had people who seemed GREAT at first, but once they settled in after a month or so, simply weren't a good fit. We like to see how people behave past the "honeymoon phase", and going through a temp agency allows us to do that.

I talked to an owner of a 10m internet company who used nothing but temps. Permanently. Once they've gone past the 90 days, we bring them on, do benefits and all that good stuff, but he did not want any employees - had been burned in the past and didn't want anything to do with hr-type stuff. Even his president(!) of several years had a phd and was still an agency employee.

I've never thought of this but it's extremely interesting. What practical items change if you use an employment agency? It sounds like they filter your applicants for you. What does the agency handle after the employee starts working for you?

Why is it easier to let an employee go if they came from an employment agency?

By how much do agencies typically increase an employee's wage?

I'm curious in what sorts of ways an employer can be "burned" by HR-stuff.

piatkow




msg:4504851
 1:46 pm on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)


I've never thought of this but it's extremely interesting. What practical items change if you use an employment agency? It sounds like they filter your applicants for you. What does the agency handle after the employee starts working for you?

Details of who can be liable for what will depend on the jurisdiction but for me as the employee some agencies have been my employer, responsible for paying my wages and deducting tax while others simply vetted CVs and presented a short list of candidates to the employer for a fee.

motorhaven




msg:4504866
 2:50 pm on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've had to let several employees go over the years and learned some painful lessons about management.

Letting someone go on the spot, with no warnings, can be traumatic for the employee and myself. Sometimes they had no idea what I saw as a problem was a problem - and not warning them never gave them a chance to correct it. Obviously, if its gross misconduct such as stealing, verbally abusing a customer, etc. they are sent packing immediately.

Not taking decisive action (verbal and written warnings, plus letting them go ASAP after you've made the decision) costs me more on an emotional level and isn't fair to them either. It makes letting them go harder the longer you wait and drags the company down in the meantime. Depending on the situation I may or may not pay them out for 2 weeks pay.

When letting someone go I do not worry about how it impacts unemployment claims... small company and the rolling average of claims over 5 years is small. I have ethical issues with maneuvering a situation to screw them out of unemployment benefits. I let them go for the real reasons, have it documented and let the chips fall where they fall.

Ultimately, when dealing with a problem like this, I believe the golden rule applies. Other than gross misconduct... if I were the employee how would I like to be treated?

Lastly, I strongly recommend you pay for an hour's time with a local attorney specializing in employment law. You want to handle the situation both ethically (easy if you remember the golden rule) and legally.

Tonearm




msg:4504890
 5:09 pm on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Depending on the situation I may or may not pay them out for 2 weeks pay.

This has been brought up several times by different people in this thread. Is providing 2 weeks pay upon termination a standard practice?

motorhaven




msg:4504944
 9:31 pm on Oct 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't know if its standard, but its not uncommon in professional fields. I expect the courtesy of a two week notice when someone quits, to give me time to prepare so I extend the same courtesy when letting someone go. But its a personal decision if they merit it or not, how long they've been working for you, etc. and whether its something you can reasonably afford.

incrediBILL




msg:4504964
 1:41 am on Oct 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

I expect the courtesy of a two week notice when someone quits


Quits vs. Fired is a whole different thing.

However, either way you run the risk of people lingering around for 2 weeks not doing their job properly because what will happen if they mess up? Gonna fire them? LOL. It can result in losing customers, causing dissent and low morale as they complain, possibly even sabotage or espionage but it's more likely when firing than quitting but I've seen it all.

Those two weeks give people time to think about things like one guy stole a customer list and tried to later steal the customers, another guy I knew sold the employee roster to a recruiter, so on and so forth. I tend to work late nights and one night I even stumbled into someone spreading out all the CFO's trash on the floor, uncrumbled, looking for something. Next day the CFO and most execs started shredding everything. You never know what could happen once they know they're out the door.

That's why I'm a big fan of just paying them for the two weeks and letting them leave immediately so it's not dragging it out. Can be inconvenient, but it's just better to make a clean cut and move on IMO.

breeks




msg:4505115
 5:02 pm on Oct 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

When I used to work for someone else they would just call the person or persons in on Friday about ten minutes before quitting time and tell them you're done and escort them out the door. They did pay them off in full at that time.

If it was a manager they would change the locks on the building. You could always tell if a manager was getting the sack when you saw the locksmith arrive.

I was one of only three people that left without being fired, one person had a heart attack and died on the job, second got a new job and never came back, and I told them to stick their job where the sun don't shine and have never been happier.

This 41 message thread spans 2 pages: 41 ( [1] 2 > >
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