How to Safely Terminate a Bad Employee

By Tamara Shelley | Investigations

Jun 09

When you know something isn’t right, you need to take action.

However, how do you protect your company from future lawsuits?

There are several things you can do to ensure the best possible outcome if you need to fire someone.

First, you should document everything. If your company does employee reviews, be sure any disciplinary actions were well documented. If an employee is “written up” for something, be sure there is a copy in the personnel file signed by the employee. As dad always used to say, “It will mean something at the trial”.  Documentation is crucial to making sure your ducks are in a row, especially if a case goes to court or an employment board.

Next, when it comes time for the actual termination, you should consider the employee’s conduct, attitude, demeanor and so on. These things can often give you a glimpse into the emotional state of the employee. If they have been hostile or are likely to become hostile, you may want to consider hiring a security team to be present during the termination. There are benefits to hiring a security presence for this purpose. It will keep the principal from having to escort a hostile employee off the premises. This will increase the safety of other employees by putting a layer of authority between the employee and the staff. A security officer can be a witness to the termination and they can testify to what they saw and heard. The security staff can be armed or unarmed, in uniform or plain clothes, this gives the principals choices based on how they want the termination to be perceived. If this is done, it is a good idea to continue to have a security officer on site, or with the VIPs for a period of time to ensure the terminated employee doesn’t come to retaliate.


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Fail to take even one of these steps and you open the door to losses and significant risk.

You should also contact your attorney ahead of the termination and get their input on what the best legal course of action will be going forward.

Be sure you make it clear to the employee what their severance package will include, if there is one. When the insurance will terminate and be sure HR follows up with the legally required paperwork. If there is a temporary restraining order (TRO) in place against the employee, be sure it is clear to them the terms and conditions of it. The security staff should also reinforce the terms to be sure they know what will happen if they violate the order.

The IT staff should immediately change all passwords and login information locking the employee out of the company computer system. All locks and keypad codes should be considered as well to ensure there is not a breach later.

All employer owned items should be collected BEFORE the employee leaves the building, including keys, company issued electronics, credit cards (including gas cards), and ID badges. If the employee is going to clean out their work space, have a security officer escort them and supervise this process. This way, the other employees and VIPs are not in the immediate vicinity should a disgruntled employee decide to do something crazy.

The key is to do things by the book and do them in the most respectful way possible to the employee. A lot of things can be avoided with a little pre-planning and making sure that people are treated with respect even in a difficult situation like a termination.


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