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13 May, 2021
As a manager, you have a lot of responsibilities that spread your time thin and make ordinary, mundane tasks feel like low priorities. But when it comes to documenting an employee termination, should that really be considered a high priority?
Let’s say you recently hired a new employee on your production line, but he’s already been late twice after only three weeks on the job. While this left your team scrambling, things escalated when they never showed up to work during the fourth week.
According to your company policy, this was grounds for termination. You called the employee to inform him he’d been fired and then changed their status in your Human Resources Information System (HRIS) to “terminated.”
At this point, the story can go one of two ways based on what you do or don’t document.
You Neglect to Document the Reason for Employee Termination
There’s just not enough time in the day to get everything done, so the last thing on your mind was to spend time writing up the series of events that led to the employee termination. Besides, company policy specifies that a no-call, no-show is an automatic fire. In the HRIS, you simply marked the employee had been termed and moved onto other job duties.
Several months later, your company received a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saying the employee had filed an age discrimination claim. In the claim, the employee stated he had been fired because they were over the age of 40 and had not received ample training before being let go. However, they had witnessed younger counterparts receiving more one-on-one training than him. The EEOC now awaited your response.
Unfortunately, the employee was just one of many former employees who had worked for a short amount of time before no longer being with your company. When the HR manager asked you for details, you couldn’t remember – but you were certain it had nothing to do with the employee being over 40 years old. Regardless, your company was about to spend oodles of time and money with legal counsel to build and fight this claim.
A year later, your company received an unemployment claim for the employee. He had eventually found work elsewhere, but apparently was no longer employed and had filed for unemployment benefits. Because your company was part of the look-back period (typically the last four of five calendar quarters worked prior to filing a claim), you were expected to fight the claim and spare your company’s unemployment rate from being impacted — or do nothing and have his unemployment wages counted against your company.
Again, you had no record (or memory) of the reason for the employee's dismissal. In order to fight your company’s culpability for unemployment wages, you needed to prove that George had knowledge that what he was doing would cause harm and that he had control of his actions. Unfortunately, you had no documentation to help trigger your memory of what had happened in his case, so he was granted unemployment benefits.
You Document Everything about the Employee Termination
Although you’re hard-pressed for time, you spent a few minutes writing down the series of events that led to the employee's termination and uploaded everything into the HRIS, including:
The employees signature on the acknowledgment page of the employee handbook, which includes the company policy about punctuality and no-shows;
- What happened and what you said in the verbal warning after the employee's first tardy;
- A copy of the written warning you gave the employee after their second tardy; and
- What was said in the final phone call when you informed the employee that he had been fired.
- In addition to documenting everything, you also specified in the HRIS that the employee had been fired for cause. Everything took about 20 minutes to type and upload, which cut into your time but wasn’t too overbearing.
When the age discrimination claim arrived, HR had the complete story of what had happened. the employee hadn’t been discriminated against; they had been progressively warned for their tardiness and then had been termed for cause with his no-call, no-show. The EEOC dismissed the employee's case after receiving your company’s quick response to his unsubstantiated claim.
Upon receiving the employee's unemployment notice, HR was able to look up his record in the HRIS and see that they were fired for cause. This let them know there was more to the story than a basic termination. After a quick search, HR found supporting documentation that proved the employee had knowledge and control of their behavior. The warnings they had received were in line with the company’s disciplinary action process (which they had signed as acknowledged), as was their termination for cause. HR quickly responded with proof that the company was not culpable for unemployment benefits.
Taking time to document right away when details are fresh on your mind is a top priority. This can be a huge time and money saver down the road, especially if a discrimination or wrongful termination claim is made. But even beyond employment claims, companies receive notices all the time about former employees who have filed for some benefit or are eligible for a new government assistance program. Documenting details in your company’s HRIS saves a lot of time just in hunting down answers for these agencies.
Partners HR uses a unique system that enables you to clearly indicate the reason for termination and upload any supporting documentation, which helps us help you in the event a claim is made or a notice is received from a government agency.
For questions on how to do this, please contact Partners HR today.