"The corporation is the 'master'; the employee is the 'servant'. Because the corporation owns the means of production without which the employee could not make a living, the employee needs the corporation more than vice versa."
--- Peter Drucker
Employment laws today have come a long way. It used to be, as a business owner, that you could fire a deadbeat for not performing and most everyone would understand. Today, even employment-at-will states are coming down hard on employers who fire an employee who is not producing.
The businessperson today has to not only contend with competition, fluctuations in the economy, and way too many government intrusions, but is now faced with proving why they want to keep good employees and get rid of the rest.
"If your thinking is sloppy, your business will be sloppy. If you are disorganized, your business will be disorganized. If you are greedy, your employees will be greedy, giving you less and less of themselves and always asking for more."
--- Michael Gerber
Granted, there are business owners (not in our industry!) that discriminate and fire people for the wrong reasons. Those types should not be tolerated. But when an employee is fired for a good reason, today's business owner must make sure that he or she has documented everything.
When the business leadership shows integrity and can prove why an employee should be terminated, the rest of the team recognizes this and appreciates the process. They know what is expected of them as well as the consequences for those not pulling their weight.
"I'm going to miss Blockbuster. I'm gonna miss being CEO and all that stuff. We had an atmosphere where everybody was happy. When people make money, they're happy."
--- Wayne Huizenga
If you have to fire someone, there are steps that you can take to minimize your exposure to legal action. The first step in protecting your business is to remember the key word, "documentation." Document every action you make regarding your employees. When in doubt, document.
Document any activity or conversation that you foresee potentially coming back to bite you. Don't be fooled into using common sense here. Look at how today's world would perceive a particular action or activity and document accordingly.
"Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can't tell you whether someone will fit into a company's culture. When you realize you've made a mistake, you need to cut your losses and move on."
--- Howard Schultz
Next, make sure that you have a termination policy in place. An employment termination policy outlines what the employee is entitled to when his or her employment ends. Some employee handbooks also include reasons for termination clearly spelled out so that employees will know that unacceptable activities such as alcohol and drug use in the workplace is grounds for termination.
"Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company."
--- Zig Ziglar
Finally, know the reasons for the termination. Before you fire someone, you should make sure you have a legitimate reason that is based on fact (and, of course, documented). If your employee handbook spells out that an employee will be fired if they miss more than two days of work without calling, make sure that you document the dates and any efforts made to contact that employee.
The key to running a good business is hiring good people. However, when it is discovered that your screening and interviewing process failed, be prepared with a plan to correct the situation.
"I could never have imagined that firing 67 people on national television would actually make me more popular, especially with the younger generation."
--- Donald Trump