How to Fire an Employee the Right Way

No one wants to terminate an employee, especially in the medical office. Medical office employees are highly skilled professionals that take years to develop and if they’ve been with you a long time, they are likely an essential part of your staff. However, an employer can exercise their right to fire employees if they want. Unless your employee has an employment contract, employees in most states are employed on an at-will basis and can be fired at any time for any reason. If an employee has an employment contract, there are a number of reasons which are usually written in the contract in which a cause for termination can occur.

Here are 5 guidelines you need in order to fire your employees the right way.

1
Know Your Limitations

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There are three major exceptions to firing at-will employees.

  1. Discrimination: It is illegal to fire an employee because of their age, race, religion, sex, national origin or a disability when it has no impact on their job performance. In many states, you can't fire an employee for sexual preference.
  2. Just Cause: If employees are told they can be fired for cause, this can be considered as an implied contract which cancels the firing at-will.
  3. Public Policy: If firing an employee violates public policy, it is illegal to fire the employee. Whistleblowing is one example of a public policy that protects employees from getting fired.

2
Communicate Clear Expectations

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Communicating expectations to your employees when they are hired and on an ongoing basis can make termination an easier process. Employees should know up front what is expected of them, have clear job descriptions and understand their role. If clear expectations are communicated to medical office staff, it is easier to point out that the employee has failed to perform as expected.

3
A Progressive Discipline Policy

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Having a progressive discipline policy allows employees to feel as though they are being treated fairly because they are given an opportunity to learn what they need to do better.

A policy should indicate different steps the medical office will take before an employee is fired. First, the medical office should establish a method for measuring performance and an accurate and systematic process. Secondly, the progressive discipline process should include qualities and essential job functions. Finally, a rating system is necessary to determine whether an employee is achieving expectations.

The policy should include which behaviors are eligible for progressive discipline and which behaviors garner immediate termination.

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4
Intolerable Working Conditions

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In some instances, employees feel as though they were forced to quit instead of being fired. This is also known as a "constructive discharge."

“An employee who is forced to resign due to actions and conditions so intolerable or aggravated at the time of his resignation that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have resigned, and whose employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the intolerable actions and conditions and of their impact on the employee and could have remedied the situation, but did not, is constructively discharged.”

Some reasons for a constructive discharge include a demotion, reduction in salary, involuntary reassignment, involuntary transfer, requests to retire, and the threat of termination.

5
The Termination Meeting

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Be careful of what language you use when firing an employee. Be sure that the history of the employee is well documented and accurate in case the employee has questions. The best way to fire an employee is to state the facts, avoid harsh language, allow the employee to speak their point of view, be specific, and have a witness that can substantiate what you say if something comes up later.

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