The Parting of the Ways: Documentation
No matter how carefully an employer screens employees during the hiring process, and no matter how well they train and treat their employees, the time may eventually come when they have to terminate an employee. This process is never an easy one; it often involves emotional responses, especially when the employee is well-liked on a personal level.
Termination of employment can become even worse, however, if it is not handled properly, leaving the employer open to litigation for wrongful termination. Wrongful termination is defined as any employment termination that violates an employee’s rights:
- If the termination is based on unlawful reasons, such as racial discrimination or revenge for private actions of the employee;
- If the termination violates a contractual agreement with the employee;
- If the termination involves the violation of public laws or policies (for example, termination for absences as the result of jury duty or other public responsibility).
Backing Up a Termination
Even when an employee voluntarily resigns or quits, the employee may claim “wrongful termination” alleging that the employer created a hostile work environment causing them to no longer be able to work for that employer and “forcing” the employee to quit (known as a Constructive Termination).
Proper documentation is critical for an employer to avoid or defend against a wrongful termination claim. Employers should be able to demonstrate cause for termination of employment with proper documentation, possibly including:
- Performance evaluations
- Disciplinary action forms
- Attendance sheets
Indeed, simply having documentation may not be enough; the documentation must be consistent with the reasons given for terminating the employee.
The Final Word
Finally, when holding the exit interview or other meeting where the employee is informed of their termination, it may be prudent to provide them with the reasoning and all documentation. This simple step may help deter possible litigation related to the termination.