“Why can’t I just terminate him”?  A Case for Creating and Reviewing Documentation

Documentation! (Photo credit: WGBH.org Development Blog)

How many times have we heard that same question?  OK.  Maybe we won’t answer that question.

The HRmeister recommends that we take a deep breath and exhale before moving forward with an employee termination.  First, we will need to do some research, and perhaps, even conduct an investigation.

Deborah J. Muller writes, “Documenting an investigation is one of the most critical, but often overlooked, elements of an investigation. Proper investigation documentation can be used as a key tool for legal defense and often can mean the difference between winning or losing an employment-related lawsuit”.

In her same blog post, Deborah offers her “Top Tips for Creating and Reviewing Documentation”.  Included in her tips are timely reminders to be consistent, quote exactly as much as possible, don’t use buzzwords, be clear about the sequence of events, document significant body language, stay factual, be clear about conclusions and recommendations, and re-read before you submit, among others.

To the extent we heed this sage advice, we will be doing a favor to the employee, the organization, and ourselves.  Though most of us are likely employed at will, i.e., we can be terminated for any or no reason, we will likely arrive at better outcomes and mitigate unnecessary risk with impartial, well documented investigations.  It takes time to perform a thorough investigation, but it’s an investment that will pay off.  In addition, we need to ensure that we’re following any applicable HR Policies, including any established corrective action procedures, as well as assessing whether there may be any FMLA or ADA implications.

See?  It may not be so easy to answer that question.  If we do our due diligence, then we’ll be better positioned to determine whether it makes good business sense to terminate or not.

What do you think?

The HRmeister


Deborah J. Muller, “Top Tips for Creating Investigation Documentation”, Published September 21, 2012


2 Replies to ““Why can’t I just terminate him”?  A Case for Creating and Reviewing Documentation”

  1. I agree that documentation is an important aspect of employee termination even in an “employment at will environment.” I know if situations where business owners have terminated employees only to find later they have violated FMLA, ADA or some other guideline as you state. It is especially important for business owners to invest in HR guidance if they do not have an HR professional on staff.


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