Shop Talk reporter Virginia Bridges spoke with Ann Close, managing member and senior human resources coach for Close HR Connections in Raleigh, about what small-business owners need to know before they terminate an employee. Here are Close’s edited comments:
North Carolina is an employment-at-will state; however, employers should not terminate an employee without a reason. It’s important to minimize legal claims that might arise from involuntary terminations.
Terminations are delicate situations that should be handled with integrity and respect. Think through termination steps before taking action, and document as much as possible. Small business owners might also want to seek legal counsel so that nothing is overlooked.
If possible, have a supervisor and a representative from human resources or an outside resource conduct the termination meeting with the employee. Business owners should not be involved directly, if possible.
Termination meetings are best held in a quiet, neutral and private setting such as a conference room. The supervisor and human resources representative should sit in a place that minimizes the risk that an angry or violent employee will be able to block the exit.
During the meeting, highlight critical talking points to discuss with the employee, including the decision to terminate and the reason, the effective date of the termination, benefit and compensation information, company procedures for references, noncompete clauses and confidentiality agreements and exit interview.
A mid-week termination is usually the best option for both the business owner and the employee. This allows the employee to start a job search and file for unemployment.
Also, after a termination has taken effect, small business owners and managers will need to block the terminated employee from the computer system, change passwords, collect company property, including keys, equipment and files, and have security on hand in case the situation escalates.