Human Resources -- Employee Separation Policies and Procedures
Employee separation is an inevitable aspect of the business world. Careful consideration of the company's core values, stakeholders, legal requirements and financial well-being are all taken into account when preparing a Separation Policy. By establishing and implementing procedures, some of which are followed even before an employee is hired, the company can accomplish employee separation with a minimum of financial, legal and morale risk.
Separation Policy With Specific Procedures
A Separation Policy must be well-planned and effectively communicated to avoid some common pitfalls of employee separation. Most employees, absent a collective bargaining agreement, are "at will" employees (Zachary, 2008). However, employees still sue under several theories. To avoid successful suits by former employees, the company must take care to treat different categories of employees the same to avoid successful discrimination suits; terminate the employee only for lawful reasons to avoid successful wrongful termination suits and take care about communication of the facts to third parties to avoid a successful defamation suit (Zachary, 2008). Furthermore, supervisors and managers must be well-informed regarding different theories under which the company may be sued by a former employee and continually reevaluate and refine the procedures to safeguard the company against successful suits (Zachary, 2008).
Specifics of a separation policy have been developed by innumerable companies over many decades. These measures actually commence before the employee is even hired, to ensure that every phase of his/her employment coincides with the company's core values and legal requirements. Those specifics include:
a. A 3-month training phase in which the employee is sufficiently prepared to perform the job, is observed for performance, has skills improved where lacking and is evaluated as to whether he/she is a good fit for the company (Anonymous, Employee terminations, 2006);
b. Human Resources, supervisor and manager education to avoid successful wrongful termination suits, which education would involve a working understand of:
1) the At-Will Employment Doctrine, its modifications and exceptions, including constructive discharge, implied contract, statutory restrictions, covenant of good faith and fair dealing, public policy, employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, special provisions for disabled employees, special public policy protections for whistle-blowers, and the employment torts of discrimination, wrongful termination and defamation (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005);
2) Statutes protecting the mob and benefits, including but not limited to: Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA); Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act of 1994 (USERRA); Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARNA); Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA); Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA); The Employee Retirement Income security Act; ERISA plans (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005);
3) Adequate grounds for termination, including but not limited to: gross insubordination, subpar performance; excessive absenteeism without excuse, and workplace violence (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005);
4) The company's core ethical values, such as: excellence, honesty, integrity, reliability, fidelity, fairness, caring, respect, citizenship and accountability (Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005). The communication and support of these values is vital as they create a corporate culture in which all are evaluated and treated ethically, even up to the point of termination;
c. Careful documentation of: the employment agreement (Shanoff, 2006); employee-signed documentation of every incident in which he/she must be corrected; consistent, careful documentation of each incident of malfeasance to build a credible case for dismissal; careful documentation of the termination meeting's specific aspects (Anonymous, Employee terminations, 2006);
d. Speedy, precise and well-documented information to each employee to let him/her know that performance is lacking, how it is lacking and how it must be improved (Anonymous, Employee terminations, 2006);
e. A performance-improvement plan for employees whose performance is lacking, which will give the steps for improvement and a feasible timetable for improvement, along with any necessary mentoring for the improvement (Anonymous, Employee terminations, 2006);
f. When deciding whether to terminate an employee, his/her work history and the circumstances leading to his/her possible termination should be reviewed, along with any ethical issues surrounding the dismissal, the effects the termination will have on all stakeholders (management, other employees and clients), and possible alternatives to separation, including: lower incentive payouts, salary freezes, voluntary salary cuts, temporary layoffs, reduction of workweek hours, job sharing, severance pay plans, and/or outplacement services (Anonymous, Chapter 6: Managing employee separations, sownsizing and outplacement, n.d.; Van Bogaert & Gross-Schaefer, 2005);
g. A termination checklist including all pertinent…