Why HR Professionals Should Document Everything Before Firing Someone

Stakes can be high when deciding whether to fire an employee, and there are a variety of ethical and legal factors to take into account. So how can HR directors safeguard their employers during the employee-termination process, while simultaneously being fair to the individual who is losing their job?

Documenting absolutely everything. Documentation should not arise during the termination of an employment. Documentation starts during onboarding when the HR hands over the employee handbook. This is a very vital documentation because it lays out for workers exactly what the company’s policies are and how HR will handle violations.

Down the line of any employment, documenting any performance or conduct problems. An employee’s boss and HR may decide to put them on a performance improvement plan if they frequently fail to meet expectations (PIP). This is typically the last action an employer will take before terminating an underperforming employee.

When PIP FAILS, a decision is now made and is also documented. This documentation is a written record of how a company came to the termination decision. It provides a timeline of the employee’s actions, the manager’s reactions, and when each occurred. If done properly, it offers a transparent road map of how the employee and employer arrived at the employee’s termination.

Should the employee file a lawsuit, documentation is also the cornerstone of the business’s defense. It is evidence that a company did not act arbitrarily. A strong documentary record frequently ends a lawsuit on its own. When given a thorough and thoughtful written record, an employee’s attorney may determine that bringing a lawsuit is simply not worth it.

There is always some risk involved when HR leaders fire an employee, regardless of how cautious they are. You as HR can be on the right side of the law but there is never a guarantee that you can’t be sued.

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