Firing – a Necessary Skill for Employers

Firing an employee can happen without warning like the time I swung open the walk-in cooler door at my restaurant and discovered a cook drinking milk right out of the carton. I said…”Uh, you’re outta here.” Unbelievable!

Anyway, because things happen that making firing on the spot necessary, it is essential to know how to fire an employee before the situation arises. Every state and federal agency has its own regulations regarding the termination of an employee. Likewise, every huge corporation with thousands of workers or little tiny business with just one employee must follow hiring and firing regulations. It is vital for anyone starting or buying a business to research these issues by contacting the state department of labor and industry in the state where the business is located.

In the state where my business is located the employee’s final check should, by law, be presented at the time of firing; but because unforeseen ‘firings’ can happen, it is a good idea to immediately tell the employee when that final check will be ready. It goes without saying that the final check and any other end of employment details, like draws and employee tabs, should be ready on time to avoid an angry scene. An employer does not want a fired employee calling the State Labor and Industry office to complain that he could not get the final check.

Easing an employee out by cutting shifts back is another way to fire someone. While this method is very nice and might make the employee and employer feel better, it has a couple of disadvantages. First, the employee can probably claim she was laid off rather than fired which would affect the employee’s unemployment right and, consequently, the employer’s unemployment tax rate. The individual would be gone, but an increase in unemployment taxation lasts a long time.

Being nice can have other ramifications. One time, I cut an employee’s shifts back and back until she was no longer on the schedule. She was such a nice person and it was difficult to let her go, but she was a terrible waitress so it had to be done. She eventually realized that she no longer had a job and she confronted me one day saying, “You can’t fire me. My boyfriend is the county health inspector.” Who knew? We had a full-fledged vendetta on our hands when he began inspecting my restaurant on a daily basis. Not good, but we prevailed in the end.

It would have been meaner but better, in hind sight, to sit down with her and gently fire her telling her the reasons rather than leave her in such a vague employment limbo. This made her very hurt and angry. We probably would have suffered the wrath of the boyfriend but our case would have been clearer.

Many say that firing is a difficult heart wrenching decision. I disagree. Sometimes is feels very good to get rid of a problem employee. However, I must emphasize that anger has no place in any firing. There is too much liability for the business. Terminating an employee should be done coldly and efficiently. Be a professional. Do not let emotion into the termination conversation. It’s always best to say as little as possible.

The fired employee might want to be cordial in the future. This can happen. I’ve had former employees come back years later to say they’re sorry. Generally, though, this does not happen.