Last week, Rodney Employment Law tweeted about an employee who went on a stabbing rampaging in a Toronto office after finding out he was fired from the company.  Chuang “Ray” Li, 47, from Mississauga is now facing three counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of assault with a weapon, after he attacked four of his coworkers in the Toronto office.

This tragic incident demonstrates why it is so critical to have comprehensive termination plans in place when terminating employees.  While these situations are not 100% avoidable, there are many tips employers should implement to minimize the risk!

Employers would be wise to keep the following key elements in mind during a Termination Meeting:

  1. Greet the employee

At the outset of the termination meeting, it is important to keep the small talk to a minimum.  Although there is a tendency to want to avoid the real issue, the sooner you get there, the better!

  1. Focus on the agenda

The termination meeting is not the time to elaborate on previous performance issues or historical information.  It is important to stay focused and keep in control at all times!

  1. Clearly communicate the decision

When conducting a termination meeting, it is important to reference the phrase, “termination of employment”.  Many employers use words like, “transition”, “layoff”, or “separation”, which can confuse the real message.  “Termination” is a legal term and must be used as such.

  1. Explain the separation package

It is not recommended to read the termination package in its entirety.  When an employee is told they are terminated, he or she invariably enters a state of disengagement and often won’t hear what is being said.  Therefore, it is recommended that the highlights of the termination package are reviewed and the employee is encouraged to read the letter once the news has settled in.

  1. Discuss separation logistics

One of the delicate areas of a termination meeting is how the employee departs from the company, as well as the retrieval of personal belongings.  There are various options in this situation, including: giving the employee an option of packing up the belongings and departing within a short period of time; the company packing up the employee’s belongings and shipping it to the employee; or, scheduling a time for the employee to pick up the belonging after-hours.

  1. Close the meeting

Equally important to setting the tone, is how the termination meeting is completed.  The employee should be reminded that it is a business decision and not personal.  It should also be kept in mind that a handshake or a “thank you” goes a long way!

  1. Third Party Presence

Having a third party present is important both from the employee and employer perspective.  From the employer perspective, having an HR professional or EAP (Employee Assistance Provider) representative at the meeting helps protect the company by minimizing any potential risks.  From the employee perspective, he or she often wants to speak to an objective third party once the bad news is received.

In light of the recent stabbing incident at Ceridian, employers may want to consider having security present during terminations, in the event of high-risk or an uncertain termination.  These security individuals may be undercover and their identity only disclosed should the need arise.  Perhaps this very security presence could have prevented this tragic situation!

Following proper termination protocol is important. Here are a few helpful Termination Do’s and Don’ts:

Helpful Hints – The Do’s

  1. Remember the purpose of the meeting
  2. Determine the appropriate time and place for the meeting
  3. Seek advice from experts (HR or Legal)
  4. Prepare and practice by reviewing the termination letter, script, logistics
  5. Anticipate and identify your needs
  6. Anticipate the needs of the affected   employee 
  1. Anticipate the needs of the remaining  workforce 
Red Flags – The Don’ts

  1. Do not veer off course! Keep termination meetings brief.
  2. Ensure that the timing of the termination is appropriate
  3. Do not react emotionally!
  4. Do not speculate on why the decision was made!
  5. Do not convey mixed messages to the employee!

When terminating an employee, we always recommend that employers act in good faith and part ways respectfully, professionally and maintaining an employee’s dignity.

The following are some examples of Bad Faith – we strongly recommend avoiding these scenarios!

  1.      Attacking an employee’s reputation at the time of termination.
  2.      Humiliating and/or embarrassing an employee in the termination process.
  3.      Depriving an employee of a right or benefit they would otherwise be entitled.
  4.      Misrepresenting the reason for the termination.
  5.      Actions or conduct that is designed to cause actual harm to an employee.

If you need assistance at any point before, during, or after a termination, please do not hesitate to contact Rodney Employment Law for an in-depth consultation.

Disclaimer: this post is intended for educational and non-commercial purposes only and is not intended to be a source of legal advice to any person in respect of any particular legal issue; it does not create a solicitor-client relationship with any readers. If you have a legal issue or possible legal issue, please contact us.