Administering discipline or terminating an employee for misconduct can be the most difficult part of an employer-employee relationship.  Here are 4 tips to keep in mind when notifying an employee of the reason for any discipline or termination:

  1. Decide who should talk with the employee.  Having two employees present (in addition to the employee who is being disciplined or terminated) helps to avoid subsequent disputes about what occurred or was said at the notification meeting.  Generally, supervisors or human resource professionals are in the best position to administer discipline or terminations.  Friends or close co-workers of the employee typically should not administer the discipline or termination.
  2. Stick to the facts and avoid labeling the conduct.  The reasons provided for the discipline or termination should be truthful and factual, but should not be overly detailed.  The employer should avoid hyperbole, drawing conclusions about the conduct, or debating the conduct or discipline imposed with the employee.
  3. Be sure the employee understands that he or she is being disciplined or terminated.  The employer must be firm, final, and clearly communicate what the consequences of the conduct are and what the next steps may be.  Providing a written notice to the employee  and asking the employee to sign it will help to minimize misunderstandings.  At the end of the meeting, it is also helpful to ask whether the employee has any questions.
  4. Document all disciplinary actions and terminations.  The key facts that should be documented in an employee’s personnel file include:  (i) the nature of the misconduct and the date on which it occurred; (ii) the nature of the discipline imposed and the date on which it was communicated to the employee; and (iii) the identity of the employee or employees who notified the employee of the discipline.  If there is supporting evidence or documentation relating to the misconduct, that should be included in the employee’s personnel file as well.