We’ve all been there. Whether you’re a business owner or a manager of a business, firing an employee can be tough. Follow the following six tips to make it easier for everyone to break-up the relationship and reduce the risk of wrongful termination or unfair treatment claims.

Tip 1:

Before firing an employee Give them an opportunity to improve. Prior to termination, there should be dialogue with the employee about performance or other work-related concerns. If nothing changes, it’s time to develop a written performance improvement plan (PIP). This will provide the employee with specific goals, the opportunity to succeed, and hold him or her accountable for progress made.

A typical PIP includes at least the following four parts:

  • Outline of performance deficiencies
  • Measurable, expected improvements
  • Time frame for meeting PIP goals
  • Consequences for not meeting goals

If the employee fails to meet his or her PIP’s objectives, which shall be reasonable and attainable under the circumstances, the PIP should be used as an objective basis for the termination of the employee’s employment for the company.

Tip 2:

Just the facts. Firing an employee can be emotional. Don’t let it be. Stick to the facts backed with documentation. If there was a PIP, bring that to the meeting along with documentation of how goals were not met. If they have been warned or written up, bring this documentation to the meeting. If there are company policy infractions, have the employee to review the employer’s handbook and sign the final written reprimand. Documenting everything and consistently apply the company’s policies is the best way to protect your company from discrimination claims or allegations of wrongful termination.

Tip 3:

Be prepared. You’ll need to answer questions and communicate clearly how the process will work. For example, when can they clean out their desks? What will happen to the employee’s benefits? Will there be a severance compensation? What is the official termination date? How will a reference be handled?

Jot down the notes on exactly what you think the employee will need to know. If you have an HR department, enlist their assistance.

Tip 4:

Have a witness. It’s important to have someone else from the company, preferably HR, present at the meeting. If you don’t have a dedicated HR person or department, ask a trustworthy colleague. This will help ward off any potential claims of discrimination, unfair treatment, or wrongful termination after firing an employee.

Tip 5:

Be professional and considerate. Make sure you pick a private place with no interruptions or other employees around. Select a time of the day when it is relatively quiet and a day of the week with minimal business.

Tip 6:

Keep it simple. Don’t make excuses or get into discussions. Make the meeting short and factual. Always treat the employee you’re firing with respect.  Remember, anything you say may be (and will be) used against you or your company in any future litigation.

No matter what you call it; terminated, fired or let go, it’s a sensitive and emotionally charged topic for all parties involved. These six tips will increase your odds that this unpleasant meeting will go smoothly and minimize the chances of wrongful termination, unfair treatment or discrimination claims.

If you have more questions about the termination of your employees, an employment lawyer can help you to address your specific situation.


This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein.  While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is it a substitute for, a qualified legal advice. Your receipt of this article from Lexern Law Group, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG.  The opinions expressed in this articles are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.