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People Process: What to do when you have to fire someone.

Sometimes, you have to let someone go.  It sucks, its sad, and its also a legal minefield.  This episode addresses the checklist needed when you let someone go.  We are not going to really get into why you should fire someone, but rather we are going to dive into the steps you need to go through once the decision is made.
Involuntary Termination Checklist
  1. First, as a reminder, discuss termination with management and your qualified legal counsel to ensure the termination is warranted and legally compliant. (on our show notes, we have a link to the EEOC policy’s to review prior to letting someone go.)
  2. Prepare the final pay check according to state requirements and  confirm that the final wages will be ready for the employee, as applicable by state law.
  3. Prepare the appropriate separation forms:
    1. State Unemployment forms/ pamphlets
    2. Termination letter
    3. Severance Agreement/Release of Claims, if applicableHere is a quick sidenote.  We are going to jump off and discuss what employees have the right to do when they receive a severance agreement:

Employee Checklist: What to Do When Your Employer Offers You a
Severance Agreement:

  • Make sure that you understand the agreement
    • Read the agreement to see if it is clear and specific, or if it is confusing because it contains terms you do not understand.
    • If you are 40 or older, inform your employer that the law requires your agreement to be written in a manner that makes it easy to understand. Usually this means that your agreement should not contain technical jargon or long, complex sentences.
  • Check for deadlines and act promptly
    • The moment you are given a severance agreement, check to see if your employer gave you a deadline for accepting, or declining, the agreement. If you are 40 years old or older, federal law requires the employer to give you at least 21 days to review the agreement and make up your mind.
    • If your employer has not given you a reasonable amount of time, or rushes your decision, this is a red flag. An employer who is fair will understand that you cannot review or make decisions about an important document on a moment’s notice.
    • If you are being rushed, ask for more time. Put your request in writing. If you are 40 or older and your employer is asking you for a decision in fewer than 21 days, remind the employer that the law requires you to be provided at least 21 days. (If you and at least one other person are being laid off in a reduction in force (RIF) at the same time, you must be given 45 days to consider the agreement.)
  • Consider having an attorney review the severance agreement
    • Even if you are parting amicably with your employer, you may want to ask for advice about whether you should sign it, whether the terms are reasonable, and whether you should ask your employer to change any of the terms.
    • If you decide that you want an attorney to review the agreement, promptly make an appointment. Do not wait until the last day before the deadline to review the severance agreement.
    • If you are at least 40 years old, the agreement must advise you to consult with an attorney.
  • Make sure you understand what you are giving up in exchange for severance pay or benefits
    • The main benefit to signing an agreement is that you will receive a cash payment or benefits in exchange for signing away your right to bring certain legal claims against your employer.
    • Make sure that the agreement offers you something of value to which you are not already entitled.
    • If you think you have been wrongfully terminated because of age, race, sex, religion, or some other discriminatory reason, you may want to think twice about signing. The benefits of signing a severance agreement should be carefully weighed against claims you might have against your employer, the likelihood of winning a court case or settlement, and the probable costs.
  • Review the agreement to ensure that it does not ask you to release nonwaivable rights
    • Confirm that your employer is not asking you to waive your right to file a charge, testify, assist, or cooperate with the EEOC.
    • Make certain that the agreement is not asking you to waive rights or claims that may arise after the date you sign the waiver.
    • Make sure that your employer is not asking you to release your claims for unemployment compensation benefits, workers compensation benefits, claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, health insurance benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), or claims with regard to vested benefits under a retirement plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

4. Conduct the separation meeting:

  1. Explain to the employee the reason for termination and explain that the decision is final. The reason should be concise and to the point
  2. Provide final pay check and collect the Final Paycheck Acknowledgement form.
  3. If the employee has group health benefits, review how and when benefits will end. Advise employee that COBRA election paperwork will be mailed.
  4. Provide the employee with state unemployment information and briefly review how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
  5. Notify the employee of the types of references the company provides and whom to contact for the verifications.
  6. If applicable, provide the Severance Agreement/Release of Claims and notify the employee of his/her timelines to consider and deadlines for returning the signed form.
  7. Collect passwords, company property, and any other company-specific items.



5.   Conclude the separation meeting, walk the employee to his/her desk to collect company property and allow     the employee to pack up  personal belongings. Once the employee has turned in company property and gathered his/her belongings, escort the employee out of the building.

6.    Notify management and key team members that the employee is no longer with the organization.

7.    Complete HR Administrative functions:

  1. Contact IT to close all employee accounts and change passwords.
  2. Document any statements made in the meeting.
  3. Contact insurance carriers to inform them about the benefit terminations.
  4. Contact your COBRA administrator, if applicable.
  5. Update your company’s internal HRIS system, if applicable.
  6. Move personnel and confidential files to “Terminated Employees” file section.

About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the seniors insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers, and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources, and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

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