04 May Too Late to Terminate?
As HR professionals we get two common calls about the timing of termination decisions:
1. Manager calls Human Resources from the field and asks, “Can I terminate this employee? He is driving me crazy, calling in all the time, and messing up my schedule.” HR proceeds to ask questions about the employee’s performance, documented feedback, potential liability, etc. Eventually, the manager confesses, “Actually, I already termed the employee, and I was hoping you’d say it was okay.”
2. Manager calls HR and says, ” Can I terminate this associate? She is out on Family Medical Leave because she just had a baby, but we think she’s been doing a terrible job.”
In the first scenario, what’s done is done. Hindsight suggests that managers should consult with HR prior to making termination decisions for several reasons:
- The manager might not know the employment history that HR has in the file;
- The manager might not know the precedents set by previous decisions, policies, and exceptions; and
- The manager might not be aware of the potential liability created by testing recent case law.
In the second situation, the employee is on federally protected leave, and that’s not a good time to terminate. HR’s back office rant following this call goes like this, “Why didn’t the manager coach the employee when she started to suspect her? Why didn’t the manager investigate, warn or suspend the employee before now? Why is this the first we’re hearing of this?”
Bottom line for managers: Your job is much more enjoyable and results in much less liability when you give clear performance feedback to employees, including guidance on the consequences of failing to improve, and consult with HR on disciplinary and termination actions before you act on them.
Scott Mastley, SPHR, MBA, is the Vice President of Human Resources for Resource Alliance. Scott is a consultant, not an attorney, so he shares his opinions, not legal advice, about increasing performance and limiting liability.