By closely following the letter, you will know exactly what to say. You will be less likely to make any comment that a jury could hold against you later if the employee files a wrongful termination lawsuit. With a good letter, you can uphold a calm, professional manner no matter what the employee says or does in the termination meeting. Since it is such an important document, you must consider several key elements when writing a termination letter.
Include the Reason in the Termination Letter
Some experts advise against including the reason for termination in this document. I disagree. Let me explain.
The employee has the right to know why you are firing him. By including the reason in the letter, you clearly state it for both you and him. When you fail to give a reason for termination, it leaves a blank space in the employee’s mind. Your former worker will need to fill in that blank likely with a reason that puts them in the best possible light and you in the worst. If he files a wrongful termination lawsuit, you will have a more difficult time defending your position. Since you gave no reason for firing this individual, the jury will have to seriously consider the employee’s “made-up” reason.
However by including a reason for termination in your letter, you explain the basis for your decision. This makes a solid case for the termination, and any lawyer will have a more difficult time finding a loophole in your firing process. If you have followed the proper procedures and have collected the right documentation, you incur no more risk by including the reason for termination in your letter.
Include the Facts
This leads to the next item you must include in your termination letter, the facts. Of course, you need basic facts like the employee’s name and position, and the effective date of termination. More importantly, you must include facts that back up your reasons for firing the employee. You should summarize the steps you took in progressive discipline. Your termination letter should briefly summarize the detailed documentation you collected while trying to reform this worker. If the employee engaged in misconduct, then briefly discuss the investigative procedure you followed to prove it.
Describe the Event that Led to the Firing
In the termination letter, you also must include the triggering event that led to the firing. Here you describe how the employee’s behavior negatively affected you, the department, coworkers and the company in general. Within this section, you must state that this final incident has left you with no other choice than to fire this worker.
Wrap it Up
Your letter should also explain the employee’s rights and responsibilities. For example, you should list when the employee will receive the final paycheck and what his severance benefits are. If you offer a better severance package in exchange for a release, the letter should state this. Also, list any items the employee must do before leaving the building like returning keys, pass codes and company property. Finally, include a line suggesting that you wish the employee the best in his or her future endeavors.
The final element of the termination letter is the sign off. The end of the letter should contain your signature, your name, and your title. There should also be a line at the end of the termination letter for the employee to sign. He must formally recognize that he received it.
Remain Objective Throughout
Keep in mind the entire termination letter must remain objective. You should not give your opinions about why the employee failed to follow procedures or to work up to expectations. The termination letter must stick to the facts. At the same time, the tone of the letter should be polite and truthful.
Before holding the termination meeting, set the termination letter aside for a day or two and then reread it to ensure it says what you mean it to say. Keep it as professional as possible. It is also a good idea to have your human resources manager or your attorney review the letter before presenting it to the employee.