Employee Termination

We've been very fortunate that involuntary terminations have been few over the years. We are a subcontractor and we were notified late last week by our prime contractor that a harrassment complaint had been filed against one of our employees. This employee had been verbally warned on more than one occasion over the last 4 months and provided stern written communication. His behavior didn't change.

The initial action was going to be a written warning in his file and a 1 month suspension. After receiving a written list of the issues, which turned out to be numerous, and the complaints were substantied and confirmed by prime contractor management and other witnesses it was decided that the situation warranted termination. I also found out that this employee had been "moved" 3 times by our prime contractor on this contract because of his offensive language and behavior.

When we sat down with this employee he asked what changed and wanted the specific action or actions that brought us to the termination. He wasn't given a list of all the complaints in detail. His manager said there were many and they were corroborated and stemmed from a confrontation that happened months ago and he completely owned up to his actions for that particular instance. He admitted responsibility and he sat there and said the other complaints could have been any of a million things he said in the past 6 months.

He doesn't harbor hard feelings and took the termination better than we did. He even stated he understood our position. This particular employee has no filter, he knows his behavior is unacceptable and that he violates our respectful workplace policies and yet still continues with the behavior.

My question to you...would you have done things differently? He had admitted fault in the primary complaint, would you have given him the complete laundry list?


  • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Terminating employees is no fun, whether they expect it or not.

    Our process usually involves a final warning. Then the employee is not surprised when the end comes. In a case like this, we would probably have referred him to mandatory sessions with our EAP after we realized he had a filter issue. This would have gone along with our final warning.

    EAP or not, if the employee continues to be abusive then you have no choice but to terminate. My concern is that the employee seemed to be surprised. He appeared to think further more verbal warnings was expected/appropriate. I assume that based on his asking what made this incident different.

    You don't have to go through the whole laundry list, though it doesn't hurt. However, I would recommend that you review your procedures to make sure the employees understand that each incident and warning is an escalation and that if there is no change on their part, termination is inevitable.

    Good luck!
  • I might pick out two or three examples that are the most clear cut and irrefutable, but I never give the laundry list. It only takes the slightest grey area on one item, and the employee feels like the termination was unjustified. And chances are, the further down that list you go, the more you give him to object to.
  • No, we would not have given him the entire list. If there is a long laundry list we might say, Your employment is being terminated for instances of insubordinate conducte, inappropriate interaction with customers and peers, and a pattern of unprofessional and disruptive workplace behavior that continued despite repreated warnings by management. This gives the overall reasons without getting into the weeds of the issue.

    We have a disciplinary action review board whenever termination is recommended. If the board concurs then the President/General Manager must agree. He is the only one that can officially say a person is being terminated. Once that is done then we issue a letter which legal approves.

    We also have an EAP which we refer employees to. As you know each case is different. We also do not have progressive discipline. We can go straight to termination depending on the issue, but it must get by the board.**==
  • Thank you all for the feedback. I've meant to get back to the post earlier but this termination was hard for me. We didn't give him the entire list of reasons and as his manager provided all the written documentation it turns out not only was he given 2 written warnings but prior to the written warnings there were bullets on his performance evaluation and 2 sit down conversations and verbal warnings. This particular employee just doesn't have a filter.

    The actual termination wasn't a surprise to him. He wasn't told he was being terminated when his program manager setup the meeting but he showed up with all his badges, his company credit card and computer equipment. He knew, he apparently just wasn't clear on which of his many offensive remarks finally tipped the scale. He has valuable skills and 2 masters, I hope that he's learned his lesson and can take that lesson learned to his new employer.
  • If you need further validation that you were smart in not presenting the laundry list of workplace offenses to the employee being let go, here it is. Attorney Brad Cave, writing for [I]Wyoming Employment Law Letter[/I], says: "Sometimes it’s tempting to 'pile on' the employee’s entire history, but some courts have noted that an employee can raise evidence of pretext by attacking the credibility of any of the employer’s reasons when the employer has asserted several reasons to support the decision. Stick to the events and previous disciplinary action or performance issues that actually contributed to the termination decision; don’t rely on stale issues to bolster your reasons." Here is a link to Brad's complete article, "How to write a strong termination letter," which just appeared in the national e-newsletter HR Hero Line: [URL]http://bit.ly/19WEdzZ[/URL]
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