Hire Slow, Fire Fast
The ever changing and complicated world of hiring and firing must be treated with the utmost caution to avoid increased risk of a lawsuit. Many states have an “employment at will” statement in regards to the relationship with employees, and it sounds easy to say “I can discharge an employee at any time with or without cause.” The problem with this is that even though it isn’t working out for you and you don’t want to be in a room with this person another second, that doesn’t mean the person can’t question the reason you are letting them go or pursue the reason they think you let them go.
For instance, this story was told to me by a person who was asked to sit in on a termination as a witness. The doctor explained that he “just didn’t like her strong personality” and he needed a reason that sounded good to let her go. “She is very good at the front desk, collects the money, gets the insurance to pay, presents herself professionally, but she is a little too officious for some of the patients and myself”, he explained. “It’s her personality.”
At the end of the work day he had a severance check and her last paycheck in an envelope and a letter of recommendation. He said, “It just isn’t working out for me and I would like to have my office key now. Please get the things from your desk and leave out the back door within the next five minutes.”
She said, “I don’t understand what I did wrong?”
She filed for unemployment, was approved but was hired by another dentist before she had a chance to collect. She also put up an unfavorable review on a well-known social media job board site. This was a very uncomfortable circumstance for the doctor and employee. Unfortunately he hired in haste again two years later, and again regretted it.
Getting legal advice from an employment attorney or a dental liability insurance company that you have a current policy with would be wise if there is a doubt in how an employee should be terminated. In today’s world of “protected groups” and “gender bias” it is wise to have a strong relationship with a professional who understands the laws of your state and what to do to prevent problems.
Some things to consider when being proactive about an effective termination policy:
1. Create a policy for termination with an employment attorney or a licensed HR specialist in this area.
2. Be transparent about the termination policy that has been created so that staff is aware it exists.
3. Begin the documentation process as far as dates, circumstances and witnesses as soon as you notice a pattern of negative performance or behavior.
4. Have a support person or management person involved to reach an agreement of when and how the person is terminated.
5. Schedule the last meeting and make sure all paperwork for dismissal is ready, including severance pay and final payment and benefit statement.
6. Make sure the electronic and physical access to the workplace is disconnected just prior to the person walking out the door. This includes return of door keys and resetting alarm passwords and computer station passwords.
Documentation is extremely important for creating superior employment records and for risk management against termination suits. There will always be risk, but the more prepared you are the better your chances of avoiding a very sensitive situation and financial loss. Termination of employees remains one of the most difficult tasks for dentists and their managers, and is not a “cookie cutter” situation but is dependent on the individual risk factors involved.
Hiring right takes a good system with careful investigation and documentation. McKenzie Management can put you on the right path with professional business training courses that cover hiring and management of staff, so call us today.Forward this article to a friend
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