Terminate w/ Care to Avoid Workplace Violence - Free Enterprise
Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Terminate w/ Care to Avoid Workplace Violence

The recent shooting at the Empire State Building was revealed to be an act of workplace violence.

The alleged shooter, Jeffrey Johnson, was reportedly a former employee at a company near the Empire State building who was laid off six months ago. The man is said to have returned to his ex-employer to collect unpaid money and apparently exact revenge on a company vice president, reports The Associated Press.

The Empire State building shooting should serve as a reminder to employers everywhere of the real dangers of workplace violence and the importance of terminating employees with care.

While it's unknown if any steps could have prevented the shooting in New York, here are some tips for every employer to consider when firing an employee:

  • Think things through. Before you decide to fire an employee, make sure that you have thought things through carefully. Never act rashly. Figure out all the facts and circumstances justifying the termination and make sure you are making the right decision.

  • Don't get personal. No matter how much you may dislike a particular person, don't get into a personal attack of the employee at his or her termination. Keep things professional and point to objective reasons for the termination such as poor performance.

  • Keep information confidential. Don't bad mouth the employee to others. Only inform individuals of the termination and reasons on a need-to-know basis.

  • Consider all legal requirements. Don't shortchange your employees on their last day. Pay them what is owed including compensation, vacation, PTO, etc.

  • Arrange for your meeting to be in a private place. Terminating your employee publicly and loudly in front of the employee's colleagues is going to be ugly. If possible, arrange a private meeting and explain the termination to the employee to spare upsetting and embarrassing the employee.

  • Ask for the employee's keys or access cards to the building. If the employee is calm and collected it will likely not be harmful to allow him or her to collect personal items and say goodbye to co-workers. However, if you feel that terminated employees may be disruptive, or may harm other individuals, escort them to their desks or work stations and make sure that they safely leave the building. If you are concerned that they may come back to the building to cause further trouble, consider alerting building security, or changing the locks and access codes to ensure they can no longer gain entrance.

Terminating an employee is one of the most sensitive situations an employer can go through. If not done properly, terminations have the potential to erupt into workplace violence as allegedly happened at the Empire State building.

Related Resources: