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How to Fire an Employee


Firing an employee is rarely a pleasurable task. Fraught with tension and recriminations, termination of employment is a virtual labyrinth of legalities. Learn how to safely navigate the termination interview minefield.

Legalities to Consider

Avoiding litigation is always better than responding to it. Ensure you review thoroughly before the interview the following areas:

  1. Was the termination issue discussed with the employee upon hiring? One of the most effective methods to disseminate policy and procedure information is via an Employee Manual. Did the employee get one? Did the employee receive and acknowledge understanding of the contents?
  2. Is there proper and complete documentation by the employee’s supervisor and all corrective action taken? What were the results? Were all steps outlined by known company procedures followed?
  3. Is there any indication of questionable or unfair behavior toward the employee?
  4. Is the termination legal under federal and state employment laws?
  5. Is a witness required or requested for the interview?


  • To avoid as many potential pitfalls as possible, have a clear-cut outline of the topics to discuss with the employee. Devise a checklist to use during the interview to ensure you say what you want to and what you need to.
  • Above all, maintain your professionalism.
  • If the employee’s work record otherwise allows, express gratitude for the employee’s contributions.
  • Express in clear terms that employment is being terminated.
  • Explain why. Allow the employee to review all documentation if requested. Have copies ready or a copier
  • Inform the employee that benefit information will be mailed to him.
  • Inform the employee of what appeal rights and procedures he has.
  • Offer the employee a chance to ask any questions that may still exist.
  • If designated by company policy, have the employee sign a termination acknowledgement letter.
  • Inform him when he will receive any pay due him.
  • End the interview politely and professionally.

Do Not’s

Just as important as correctly saying the correct things, you must also avoid the appearance of saying or doing things you should not:

  • Publicize the pending action to unauthorized personnel.
  • Do not argue or debate with the employee.
  • Do not lay blame or recrimination.
  • Do not stray from the purpose of the interview. Keep it on topic.
  • Do not say anything vaguely personal or intimate in nature or make promises for the future.

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