No matter if you run a restaurant, a start-up, a professional service firm, or a retail shop, sometimes you have to let an employee go for the health of the business. Due to the "family" feel of small businesses, however, we typically drag our feet when it comes to firing employees. The National Federation of Independent Business found that in 2007, only 27 percent of small employers fired someone that year. No one likes to do it, but at some point every small business owner will need to let an employee go. Below are five tips that explain how to let people go with minimal disruption to team morale and while avoiding costly lawsuits.
1. Don’t Make a Mistake
As Jeff Haden says, make sure you’re actually firing your employee for a good reason. Check out the facts and see if there’s proof your employee did something that merits dismissal. For example, if an employee accuses another employee of stealing, it would be prudent to take a look at any video surveillance and ask witnesses what they saw. Letting someone go without good reason can lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
2. Know that Sometimes You Can’t Fire Someone
The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests that you make sure your employee can be fired before you fill out that pink slip. You can’t fire someone based on their age, race, gender, religion or disability, according to federal anti-discrimination laws. Employees who report illegal activities at your company are covered by whistleblower laws, too. You also can’t fire employees for taking military leave, family or medical leave, or time off to vote or serve on a jury.
3. Document Everything
When workers feel like their co-workers are being fired for arbitrary reasons, morale can plummet. Every time your employee breaks a rule, make sure to document it. This will make the process go much more smoothly. Documentation allows you to clearly demonstrate to the employee and other workers why the termination is happening.
4. Make Sure Your Rules are Clear
If you make sure that your work site has clear policies and rules, your employees will know exactly what is expected of them. This ensures that no one is surprised or confused when you decide to let an employee go. Make sure that everyone knows what the boundaries are by including a discipline policy guide in your employee handbook.
5. Don’t Force People to Quit
Some employers think that it’s easier to force employees to quit instead of firing them. This is not only bad for morale, it is also illegal. You cannot force someone to quit by making his or her workplace intolerable.
If you make your rules clear, follow the law and you are transparent in your discipline measures, a firing can go smoothly without damaging morale or exposing the company to a lawsuit.