A client asked what to do about an email from an employee asking whether she was fired. The employee emailed the CEO directly and advised that her manager had told her not to come in any more as of Monday because things were slow, but that if things picked up and they needed her, they would call her. Her question was – am I fired?
According to the manager, the employee was fired. However, it is plain that the employee had not gotten that message. The manager confirmed having relayed the message as stated by the employee but felt that was enough and no more was needed to be said.
Unfortunately, employees need to hear a very specific message. During a termination conversation, the manager or Human Resources representative needs to say: “We are letting you go. Today is your last day.” “We are terminating your employment as of today.” Or another similar message. There should be no question that the employee is no longer employed.
Some states, such as New York (found here), New Jersey (form BC-10 (R-7-11)), and Connecticut (found here), require that terminated employees (whether the departure is voluntary or involuntary) be given a document containing information regarding unemployment insurance. Providing these documents also helps to ensure that the employee realizes that his or her employment was terminated.
It can also create a problem for the company when the employee does not know why his or her employment is being terminated. It thus helps the employee if the person relaying the termination message briefly explains the reason for the separation.
Employment terminations trigger employee rights to unemployment insurance benefits, as well as possibly health insurance continuation benefits. When the message is murky, the employee does not know if they should be looking for another job, or if they should be sitting by the phone waiting to be recalled.
Some termination meetings are more straight forward than others, but all should relay clear messages to the soon-to-be-former-employee. Consult with employment counsel for best practices with employment terminations that can help avoid employee wrongful termination law suits.