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.
 
o Consistency. 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.

o 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.

o Document.
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.

o 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.

o 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."