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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    Nov 16, 2016
    Lucas Winton

    Was terminated over the phone for stealing, which was dumb to do, I was in a bad financial bind and not thinking, no statement signed, no other witnesses, just over the phone. They have me on camera the Manger said, was wondering if it’s likely they will press charges?

    Insperity Blog
    Nov 16, 2016
    Insperity Blog

    Hi Lucas, The answer to your question depends on the particular details and decisions of the parties involved in the situation.

    Nov 14, 2016
    David McCloskey

    I was recently terminated by my employer for sending a text to one of my employees who had been bombarding me with texts filled with complaints and profanity and derogatory statements throughout the afternoon and early evening during a work shift in a restaurant. One of the messages that I sent was in the middle of a hypoglycemic episode, see I am diabetic, I had just received another text while in my office checking my blood sugar, upon opening the text I see her referring to me as a D!@#, so I responded with a mean , nasty and what could be considered raunchy message. This employee sat on that text for 6days and next time she worked with me her behavior was very antagonistic. She was sent home by our Director of Operations. Sometime between being sent home and noon the next day she had taken a screen shot of my message from 6 days before and emailed it to our Director of Operations. I arrived at work at noon was called to his office shown a single piece of paper with this message on it and told I was being let go on the spot. I was in shock. That message was composed and sent during a moment I was suffering an extremely low blood sugar. There are no written codes of conducts , policies and procedures or even an employee handbook citing rules and expectations. My Separation Notice list “Company Violation” as reason for termination. Could this be considered wrongful termination based on 1. The behavior happening as a direct result of a disease protected by the ADA. 2. No publication by company of rules and terminable offenses in the workplace?

    Insperity Blog
    Nov 15, 2016
    Insperity Blog

    Hello David, Does your company have HR contacts you can speak with to discuss your concerns? If so, you should first reach out to them regarding your situation. Questions regarding a wrongful termination claim would be best directed to an attorney familiar with employment law.

    Nov 5, 2016

    In May of 2016 I was terminated for stealing a $5.00 coupon. Actually other employees came thru my line before using these coupons, so I thought it was o.k. to use them. An ex co worker gave me the coupon to use. I was fired. Now, been trying to get a job ever since, and no luck. what now? no job forever any clues to what to say on an application of what to do???? Never late, never tardy, hundreds of great customer surveys thru my name, and fired. worked there over 2 years and 3 months.. wow…. so unfair.

    Insperity Blog
    Nov 7, 2016
    Insperity Blog

    Hi tr, One option you may want to look into is reaching out to a resume writing service in your area. Specialists there can help you decide how best to market yourself for the kinds of roles you’re interested in.

    Oct 17, 2016

    fired for not following companies procedures policies , I was never in trouble before, that good evaluations and a good race and was never in trouble then one day I get fired because of policy and procedures????
    they say I took long breaks took a long lunch I was one in the accounting office and looked at someone screensaver on their phone, and on the internet when it was job related????

    Oct 14, 2016

    I was recently terminated from my job and on my final paycheck I did not receive my P.T.O. I had over 280 hours. I contacted the payroll specialist thru Insperity and he told me to look at my employee handbook and also to contact the payroll lady from my former employer. Unfortunately since I am not an active employee I did not have access to the employee handbook. In addition I left two voice mails for the payroll lady and she has not responded to either my voicemails or my email. I have a friend that is currently employed by my former employer and she sent me a copy of the employee handbook. I read thru the handbook and NO where does it indicate that A terminated employee is not eligible for P.T.O. This information needs to be added to the employee handbook. I am very upset. I had worked hard for that company for over five years and I get stiffed.

    Insperity Blog
    Oct 14, 2016
    Insperity Blog

    Hi Lourdes, Your frustrations are understandable, especially when you aren’t able to get in touch with the payroll specialist at your former employer for assistance. Have you tried reaching out to your former employer’s HR department as well? Perhaps a representative there may be able to further explore their handbook with you and direct you on your available options.

    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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