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The Firing Checklist Every Human Resources Professional Should Use


Firing staff members is stressful — which is why so many human resources professionals sometimes hurry the process along to get it over with. But that can be a big mistake.

If you do not cross your t's and dot your i's before, during and after a termination of employment, you are setting yourself up for major problems down the line — including potential litigation from the worker you just let go.

Here is a comprehensive list of things to keep in mind throughout the termination process to ensure everything goes smoothly — and that you stay on the right side of the law, courtesy of Amy Joseph Pedersen (more) of the Stoel Rives law firm:


  • Review employees' files for post-employment obligations. These can range from non-competition agreements to confidentiality agreements. If they exist, make a copy of the agreement to give to departing employees to remind them of their obligations.
  • Get IT involved. Partner with someone in IT to sever employees' computer access while the termination meeting is taking place. Do not forget that many staff members have remote access that will need to be taken care of at the same time.
  • Carefully choose a location and time. The best time to meet? Near the end of the day.
  • And consider conducting the meeting in employees' offices or in a conference room. Why? An employee may want to engage in an extended argument about the termination of his employment — it is easier for you to leave an employee's office or a conference room than to make the former employee leave your office.

During termination of employment

  • Explain to the employee that his computer access has been cut off. But also note that you will work with him to get any personal information he has off his work computer.
  • Get company property back. This may include phones, laptops, keycards, keys, etc. If staff members have any company documents or property at home, arrange for a time to pick those up. Finally, ask the former employee if she has emailed any company documents to her personal email account, and, if so, ask her to delete them.
  • The topic of discrimination. If an employee complains about discrimination or retaliation, do not dismiss it. Ask him to explain in detail why he is claiming bias. Make notes and tell the employee you will investigate the claim, but make it clear your decision stands. Then, check out his story. If it has some merit, you may need to contact a lawyer.


  • Arrange for personal item pick-up. Decide how workers will obtain their belongings after termination. Maybe you will walk employees back to their desks immediately after the meeting. Or you could also arrange to meet with them at the office on the weekend.
  • Give employees a termination letter. It is a good idea to give workers a letter saying they have been terminated, with another reminder of any post-employment obligations. Plus, some states require employers to give the reason for the termination in the letter. Check with state laws to determine what your obligations are.
  • Give workers their final paycheck. Of all the laws involved with terminations, this is the most confusing because state laws vary significantly. Check your local laws to see:
    • if you have to pay out unused vacation time
    • if you have to pay out unused sick leave, and
    • when you must pay staffers their final paycheck, which depends on whether staff members quit, are fired, or leave by mutual agreements.
  • Finally, ask the employee if she would like to pick up her final paycheck in person or if she would prefer that you mail it to her.

Posted In: Human Resources, General; Quit, Resigned, Termination of Employment, etc.; Workplace Policies/Rules

Want to know more? Read the full article by Tim Gould at HR Morning

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