Employee Management

Termination meeting checklist

Learn the steps involved in holding a termination meeting.

Published: January 27, 2014
Updated: February 22, 2017

By HR360

Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult parts of being a manager. Although termination is generally a last resort following unsuccessful warnings and reprimands, it can be an emotional event for the employee and a stressful time for the person responsible for carrying out the termination.

Due to the number of potential legal issues surrounding termination, and the need to maintain proper documentation, it is prudent for an employer to consult an employment law attorney before taking any steps to terminate an employee. The following checklist highlights key actions involved in the process.

Before the termination meeting

  • Examine the employee's personnel file and review the reason for termination. Although most states follow the "employment-at-will" doctrine, the employer should be prepared to clearly explain the reason for termination during the meeting. A record of performance problems in the employee's file may also help to defend against potential claims of wrongful termination.   

  • Identify company property in the employee's possession that should be returned, such as keys, access cards, company credit cards, cell phones, computers, and other equipment.

  • Prepare a termination packet to be hand-delivered at the meeting that includes a termination letter, benefits summary, and the employee's final paycheck (if state law requires that the final check be provided at the time of termination). Check with your state labor department to determine any required notices regarding a change in employment status, unemployment benefits or other separation matters, as well as requirements with respect to compensation for unused vacation or time off and continuation of health insurance coverage, if applicable.

  • Schedule the termination meeting at the end of the workday or prior to a weekend, if possible, to minimize embarrassment and to allow the employee to exit the workplace and engage family and friends for support. Try to avoid termination during a holiday, which could appear insensitive to outsiders and other employees (of course, for egregious infractions the employer may have no choice). If there is any possibility a violent outburst could occur, consider the need for extra security measures (such as escorting the employee from the building).

During the meeting

  • Engage another member of management to witness the meeting. If possible, it is best to include a witness who can take notes and help negate any claims of inappropriate action during the meeting.

  • Tell the employee the purpose of the meeting and explain the reason for termination, as well as the effective date of the termination. Failing to provide a reasonable explanation for the termination may lend support to a claim by the employee that the termination was due to discrimination or another unlawful motive. If the employee complains that the termination is for an unlawful reason, listen carefully and document the allegations. It is important to remain calm, professional, and objective during the meeting.

  • Deliver the termination packet and review the written summary of benefits with the employee. Remember to comply with state law regarding the timing requirements for providing the employee's final paycheck. 

  • Explain the company's policy on providing future references to prospective employers. It is generally a good practice to provide a neutral reference in which the employer merely affirms that the employee worked for the employer during certain dates and held a specific position.

  • Wrap up the meeting and address any remaining issues. Review the list of company property which the employee may have in his or her possession and arrange to collect the items or for the employee to return them promptly. Wish the employee good luck and allow him or her to gather any personal belongings.

After the termination meeting

  • Prepare a termination report summarizing the meeting and any related information to be placed in the employee's personnel file. Include any notes taken by the witness.

  • Notify other employees of the individual's departure and explain any plans for transition and redistribution of work. A simple announcement by the employer (avoid providing details) may help to avoid the spread of rumors and misinformation.

  • Confirm that property has been returned and that all access to company databases and computer networks, email, voicemail, etc. has been disabled. Be sure arrangements have been made to archive any important emails or files, and to forward any incoming messages to other team members who will be taking over the departing employee's responsibilities.

  • Comply with any post-termination obligations, such as continuation of health coverage. Check with your state labor department for applicable requirements.

Be sure that your termination process treats employees equitably and avoid any statements or actions that might be construed as discriminatory. If you have any questions regarding employee termination, please contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney and your state labor department.

HR360 is the award-winning online HR library featuring easy-to-understand guidance on federal and state labor laws and Health Care Reform along with interactive HR tools and hundreds of forms and posters. HR360 also features step-by-step guidance in key HR areas such as hiring, performance reviews, disciplining, and termination. Reviewed and maintained by a team of attorneys, HR360 helps employers nationwide successfully manage their employees while complying with changing employment laws.

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