Policies and Procedures

Firing an Employee for Violating Company Rules

In the case of performance-based termination, employees are typically given a 90 day notice to improve their performance. But a violation of company policy requires a different tactic. Unlike performance-based termination, severely violating the rules can call for immediate dismissal. Before you fire an employee for a rules violation, make sure your expectations were obvious to all employees from the start. All company policies should be posted and conveyed through training and/or a handbook. You’ll also want to document all the details of the violation and the termination.Consistency and common sense go a long way in handling these cases. Here are some things to note about rules violations.

Make sure your decision is consistent with other cases you’ve handled.”The biggest thing that can get you in trouble is being inconsistent,” says Steve Roppolo, managing partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP’s Houston office.For example, if you gave two white employees written warnings for fighting, but fired two black employees in a similar incident, the firing can potentially be viewed as discrimination.

Clear expectations.
Rules should be documented and clearly conveyed.”Some common-sense things are obvious,” says Roppolo. “But it’s still prudent to be clear about expectations of conduct.”It can be as simple as a single-page document that everyone signs, he says. But postings, training seminars and handbooks are also helpful.

Even if it is a rules issue — the employee is caught stealing or lying to a customer — you still need to document the incident, even if the firing is immediate. Not only are you covering yourself in the case of a lawsuit, you’re helping yourself remember should another case come up and you need a refresher for how you’ve handled it in the past.

Fire without notice.
In the case of a rules violation, depending on the severity, like embezzlement, you will want to suspend them during the investigation. If it’s serious enough, you may want to fire the employees without notice. If the rule violation is not as serious, you may want to employees that violate the rules that it is important, and it can be a final warning, says Roppolo.

Protect information.
If you let someone go immediately, cut off their access to sensitive information right away. In one organization, a former employee published all of the salaries in the company, says Mary Hladio, founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based Ember Carriers leadership group.”They didn’t cut off his access quickly enough, and he sent it out in a mailing list,” she says.In addition, get computers and cell phones immediately. In one department Hladio worked in, an existing employee was loaned a laptop and printer while he searched for a job. It came back destroyed.”They should have given him a gift card,” she says. “People get really creative when they’re fired.”

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  • Insperity Staff

    Insperity Staff

    Since 1986, Insperity has provided industry-leading human resources management products and services to over 100,000 businesses. With Insperity® Workforce Optimization®, our full service HR, you’ll get administrative relief, access to better benefits for your employees, reduced liabilities and shoulder-to-shoulder HR support from a seasoned service team.

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    Jul 24, 2016

    I am stressed beyond you can imagine over a company policy violation that I had committed several weeks ago, but it was just discovered last week. I was made aware of a pending decision, as it was handed upward within the company. What I did was obviously not performance, so I wont qualify for a 90-day performance improvement option, so now I’m very worried that this will get me fired. I love my job and I love my co-workers, but I just want to be given a second chance. Is a second chance an option with a policy violation? A lapse in judgement for a moment shouldn’t be worth 4 years of excellent performance on the job.

    Insperity Blog
    Jul 25, 2016
    Insperity Blog

    Hi Julie – I’m so sorry to hear about your stressful work situation. Regarding your question, the ultimate decision belongs to your company’s HR department. Your company’s handbook may contain additional details pertaining to the circumstances of your violation. Good luck and thanks for your comments.

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