You're losing an employee. Whether the employee is leaving voluntarily or you're having to cut the employee loose, you're probably asking what the next steps are, and how you should protect yourself legally.
It's a tough situation to lose an employee. Don't complicate it further by making some bad legal mistakes.
Here are five steps you generally need to take after an employee leaves:
- Follow your set procedures. This is important, especially in the case of someone who was fired or laid off. When you follow written workplace procedures that are the same for all employees, then you face fewer chances of being accused of discrimination.
- Obtain a release. You've heard of severance. That's usually an amount paid out when an employee leaves, coupled with a release that he or she has to sign. That release says that for the amount paid, the employee essentially severs the right to sue. Severance isn't always 100% effective, but it's a huge legal barrier.
- Keep all documents. You never know if that soon-to-be ex-employee plans to sue for wrongful termination. If that's the case, then you want to be sure that you have a paper trial of what went on, especially the employee's performance reviews. Of course, there are other reasons to hold on to documents (tax reasons, and general business reasons, just to name a few).
- Don't gossip. Don't discuss the firing, layoff, or departure with too many others. If the employee left on bad terms, the situation is already contentious. You don't want to make it worse by being accused of defamation. Be careful with what you say and how you answer questions about that employee's departure.
- Mail out the employee's last check. Make sure you mail out their last check as well as any accrued vacation time. You don't want to be hit with a wage and hour lawsuit.
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