How to fire an employee legally and ethically


November 12, 2012

fire an employee

No matter how much of a superstar manager you are, you will lose employees at some point throughout the life of your company, whether you terminate the employment, or the employee chooses to leave the company. It’s just the nature of running a small business.

How to terminate employment fairly

If things aren’t working out well with an employee, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate your options before firing someone.

There are many unethical methods of terminating employees that can get you into trouble with the United States Department of Labor or Canada’s Labour Board – and you don’t want that kind of stress or bad reputation on your shoulders. Review your employment contract and make absolutely sure that the employee actually is in breach of the contract — not performing required duties or fulfilling the documented responsibilities — to be sure that your termination is legal. Termination procedures should be listed in the employment contract, including details about the amount of notice you’re required to give the employee, or payment due in the absence of that notice.

The importance of an exit interview

Once you are very, very, very, very sure that the termination is legally and ethically acceptable and you have delivered the termination notice, you should hold an exit interview before the employee’s last day. Exit interviews are critical — they help the outgoing employee to understand the problems and reasons behind the termination. Clearly and respectfully discuss the reasons for it and the warnings that were given.

If it’s the employee deciding to leave the company, ask questions about the corporate culture, job expectations and any concerns they may have had during their work experience. Terminating employees should follow the same procedures regardless of who the employee is, and the situation should not be discussed with others in the workplace.

Thanks to Leslie Roberts at GoForth Institute for sharing this information, learn more at

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