We’ve all got a bit of FOMO about FOMC’s (Federal Open Market Committee’s) big meeting this week, waiting to see if yet another interest rate hike will be coming. Most indicators say likely.
Since March 2022, there have been NINE such increases to interest rates all in an effort to deter a recession, which the Fed is still optimistic about being able to do (even though most of the economic recession indicators are blinking red). We’ll reserve any enthusiasm until we see Q2 results (and beyond).
My reservations are even more fully enforced by witnessing First Republic Bank go belly up and get gulped up by bigger fish JP Morgan this past weekend. Looks like the banking “crisis” is holding on a bit.
It’s difficult to not get panicked in these moments. But hear me on this: Don’t panic. Instead, let’s talk about what this means for you and your Indianapolis business right now.
More belt-tightening is a good start.
But maybe you’re not sure exactly what to tighten up and still keep profits moving forward. Or maybe you’re not seeing a trend in your numbers over the past year because you haven’t actually sat down and analyzed them.
That’s where our help begins.
Let’s grab a time to do some assessment analysis of your books and determine where to make cuts and where to increase prices. Book a time right here: helmscpa.com/book-an-appointment/
Now, one of the first ways that many Indianapolis businesses often think to cut expenses in a difficult economy is staffing. It’s an unfortunate reality of running a business. And one that a lot of businesses (including big ones like Google and Meta) are in the throes of right now.
But as a small business owner who often feels that kind of action personally, you know there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. Take a look at these best practices for terminating an employee…
Helms’s Best Practices for Terminating an Employee
“So many amazing opportunities arise when a chapter of our life ends.” – Miya Yamanouchi
As you well know, running a company is both a joyful and difficult thing. One of those uncomfortable aspects is figuring out how to fire one of your workers. Even though it’s not one of the sweeter parts of being a boss… sometimes you just have to do it.
And when you do — you want to do it well. That’s why I’m sharing the best practices for terminating an employee that I’ve learned over the years.
It doesn’t have to be a headline heave-ho like Tucker Carlson or Don Lemon to ignite problems for your business. Walmart’s been hit with lawsuits after firing workers who have chronic medical conditions. Delta Airlines came to the brink of trial before settling an age-discrimination claim after a termination. Grievances both in and out of court mushroomed after Twitter’s recent purges. But terminations have also stood up in court despite accusations as serious as discrimination and lack of documented cause.
Although these stories may make it sound impossible, you can let an employee know it’s time to move on without creating a headache for you and the company. It just takes a little bit of intentional thought.
Best practices for terminating an employee: Do you need to?
Before you put in all the work needed to substantiate a firing, make sure the move is necessary and that all the signs are there.
Is the employee engaged in his or her own work? Or are they spreading problems among your customers and bad behavior among your other employees? Have they lost their professionalism or been disrespecting your senior staff? Have they consistently failed to hit their documented KPIs?
If so, it’s time to have the conversation — but don’t fire someone on the spur of the moment by the Keurig machine in the break room. You have to prepare.
We mentioned documented KPIs. Did you know that only half of workers in a recent survey said they know what was expected of them on the job? Don’t even think about letting someone go unless you’re certain they knew their duties and simply failed to perform them.
Also realize that you, the employer, do have some advantages in this situation. Most states are “at-will,” meaning you can fire an employee at any time for any reason. (If the employee is under contract, you will have to follow the guidelines spelled out in it, though.)
There are potential potholes in at-will terminations. For instance, if you told an employee at hiring that you can only fire them for “just cause,” guidelines have been inadvertently set for a future firing — and you can open the door to a lawsuit if you fire an employee for reasons outside that agreed-upon definition.
It’s also worth mentioning that “discrimination” based on age, race, religion, sex, national origin, or a disability that doesn’t interfere with work violates federal (and maybe state) law. It’s the same for firing someone in violation of “public policy,” aka a protective statute or constitutional right.
Best practices for terminating an employee: Five (legal) steps
If you’re going to fire, here’s what you should do, in order:
1. Document in writing their violations of company policy or accepted behavior and make sure the employee acknowledges having read the document. You’ll also need a performance-improvement plan that gives your employee the chance to correct themselves.
2. Review your employee handbook (which your employee should have received at their hiring) and its firing policies. This book should spell out disciplinary policies, potential reasons for termination, and consequences you now have to oversee and administer. Follow this book’s procedures precisely. (If you don’t have these policies in writing, now would be a good time to do that. Your future self will thank you.)
3. Collect interviews, documents, and evidence to back up your decision. Also assemble your list of what you’ll have to collect from the employee, such as the company ID and any company equipment.
4. When the talk comes (don’t fire via email or text), keep it to the point and stick to facts. Sit down in a quiet spot with one witness, preferably from HR. Don’t bully or belittle the employee — but also don’t sugarcoat your reasoning, and do not debate your decision.
5. Give the employee information about their benefits, including COBRA insurance continuation, their last paycheck and payment for PTO time, and unemployment options, among others.
This isn’t a legal point, but consider having them kindly escorted off your premises after you meet. People can get upset when they get fired, and when upset, even people you think you know can behave in surprising ways.
Best practices for terminating an employee: Final paperwork
The termination letter officially declares the termination of employment — and, when clearly written (i.e., it can stand up in court), it legally protects your company in the future.
The letter should cover the reason for termination, when it takes effect, final compensation, anything expected of the employee now, and contact information if the employee has questions. If you fired the employee for cause, give details such as the policies violated, a timeline of events, and performance reviews.
The entire letter should sound professional and direct. Have your Indianapolis lawyer look it over before you send it.
If you are considering letting an employee go, please know you can go beyond these best practices for terminating an employee, and you’re welcome to ask us to look at any termination documents. We’re here to make the process as smooth as possible for you.
John R. “Rusty” Helms, C.P.A., CGMA