Is It Safe to Fire Unsatisfactory Employees During COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace significantly. Many employees now work from home. Some employers check the temperatures of employees before they enter the building. Millions of employees have been laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Employers struggle to keep employees, but many have no choice but to let employees go because of a lack of business. However, what about employees that are not performing satisfactorily? Is it okay to fire an employee for unsatisfactory performance during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Florida is a “Right to Work” state. In a Right to Work state, an employer can fire an employee at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all. Many employers believe that means that employees never have the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer. There are cases in which an employee could sue the employer after being fired, such as breach of employment contract, discrimination, or violation of employment laws.
Firing an Employee During a Pandemic
Yes, it is safe to fire an employee for unsatisfactory performance during a pandemic. The current national health crisis does not change an employer’s right to terminate employment for poor performance. The employer has the right to fire an employee if the employee’s work is unsatisfactory.
However, employers should take the necessary steps to protect themselves from lawsuits by employees who feel they were wrongfully terminated. Below are several things to remember as you prepare to fire an employee for unsatisfactory performance.
Documentation is the key to protecting your company from liability for a wrongful termination claim. Keep careful employee records regarding job descriptions and employment reviews.
Put everything in writing, including job expectations, performance improvement plans, written counseling, and performance reviews. Employee records should also contain records related to write-ups, warnings, and complaints. It is a good practice to have the employee sign the document acknowledging receipt of a copy of the document.
The company should utilize its Human Resources Department to handle documentation related to employees and employment issues. The Human Resources Department is responsible for ensuring that the company follows its own employment policies. It is also responsible for ensuring that the company complies with all employment laws and regulations. Many companies outsource these duties to an experienced HR company.
Have a Termination Checklist
Make a checklist of items that you need to recover from the employee before he or she leaves the premises, such as keys, cell phones, and other company property. The checklist should also include a list of documents that you need to provide the employee, such as information regarding COBRA, unemployment, and retirement. Having a checklist can ensure you do not forget important issues during the meeting.
Keep the Meeting Professional and Short
The termination meeting should be held in a private location away from other employees. If you have a Human Resource Department, have a member of your Human Resource team present during the meeting.
Be very clear and get to the point immediately. Notify the employee that you are terminating the employee for poor performance. Have a list of specific examples, such as missing deadlines, excessive absences, or substandard work. If the employee asks questions, keep the answers short and do not extend the conversation.
Do not apologize, and do not make any promises to review the matter and get back to the employee. Make it clear that the decision is final. Also, avoid discussing personal characteristics and traits or comparing the employee to another employee or person.
Terminating an employee is never easy. Emotions can quickly get out of hand. Having another person stationed outside of the door, such as a security guard or a person from human resources, can be very beneficial. If a business owner has any concerns about terminating an employee for unsatisfactory performance, the owner should contact a Coral Springs business lawyer to discuss the matter before firing the employee.
Contact Our Coral Springs Business Law Attorney for Help
Attorney Matthew Fornaro works with business owners and companies throughout Broward County. If you have questions about business litigation, creating a new business, or closing your company, we can help.
Call 954-324-3651 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your business law matter with Attorney Fornaro.