The Do’s and Don’ts of Firing
The Do’s and Don’ts of Firing
WCBOMAG: How do you know when it’s time for someone to go?
Don: It depends on the severity of the case. It can be an instant on-the-spot decision to say, “What you did was wrong and we can’t have you work here anymore,” or it could be after continuous policy infractions. An example of the first would be: a crew is arrested for drinking beers in the truck while driving back to the office at the end of the day. They are immediately fired. An example of the second would be: an employee is repeatedly late, making crews constantly wait for them. Our policy is if they are late three times in a three-month period they are terminated. If there is an issue with an employee, I will talk with them telling them what has been brought to my attention and that I am expecting a change or they will not last. If there is anything I can do to help them change, I am more than happy to work with them. I had to let someone go just this past week, because every one of my supervisors had come to me saying that he was no good. He was afraid of ladders, and his work was poor quality. After each time a supervisor expressed their complaints, I spoke to the employee about it, keeping the supervisor anonymous, and would have the employee then work with a different supervisor. We have about ten supervisors; some are way better than others, but all know how to clean a window properly, so when an employee is shunned by all of the supervisors, then it’s time for him to go.
WCBOMAG: How many people do you think you have fired?
Don: Definitely more than fifty and somewhere less than ninety.
WCBOMAG: Is it like killing somebody – you should do it to their face?
Don: Nah, it’s okay to do it over the phone as well.
WCBOMAG: Is text messaging acceptable way to fire someone? Or over Facebook?
Don: Not for me. Even if an employee is total garbage, as a person, I believe you still have to show some kind of respect. I like to have the employee have a full understanding of why they are being fired. Text messaging is too impersonal for that and too short. I think to fire someone over Facebook would just be mean.
WCBOMAG: Over in the phone or in-person?
Don: Either or. If I think they are really hot-headed, then over the phone so they don’t disrupt the office or maybe cause vandalism. Definitely in-person when I still hope they may have a chance to redeem themselves somehow. I really do not like to tell someone it’s over – I try to work with them until the very end. We have a policy in place stating if you are a No Call No Show and you don’t make contact with us within two days you’re done. We had that happen last week. The guy claimed he didn’t know that he was supposed to work and he thought he just had off. That was a total lie but still I liked him and he wasn’t too bad of a cleaner so I asked him if he wanted to work here. He replied ‘I’m not getting enough hours,’ and I said ‘Right, but do you still want to work here?’ and he replied that his cousin may be giving him a job - I replied, ‘Okay, but do you still want to work here?’ He then said no. So he did quit, but if he had said ‘Yes, I still want to work here,’ then I would’ve had him on the schedule the next day.”
WCBOMAG: Is there a best day of the week to fire someone?
Don: I don’t have any particular day that I would prefer to do it on. I know some companies just tell you when you come in for your paycheck. We don’t do that, though. We like to get rid of someone as soon as possible and not drag it out. But I have noticed most people do get fired on Fridays and Saturdays.
WCBOMAG: Name three people you would like to fire today
Don: I don’t want to fire anyone. I don’t have a hit list. I want to work with everyone here and have everyone work.
WCBOMAG: What was the worst firing you have ever had to do, what was the offense?
Don: One time we lost an entire crew of four all at once. One quit and three were terminated. One of them was a good friend of mine that I started cleaning windows with and really enjoyed being around. The crew was made up of three really good employees and one new hire that had just started the day before. The newbie walked off the job when the crew stopped for lunch – she just got out of the truck and started walking away, calling the office. She was really upset because the other three were smoking pot in the truck. The three were fired and she still refused to work for us. Such a waste of talent, training time, and money, because then their work for the rest of the day had to be canceled or rescheduled. It was really rough dealing with firing a friend and being betrayed by one like that.
WCBOMAG: What can cause a window cleaner to be fired immediately?
· Breaking something and hiding it
· Theft of any kind
· Drug use
· Alcohol use on the job
· More than three late arrivals within three months
· No Call No Show for two days in a row
· Using the company truck for personal use without consent from management
· Not collecting payment at the end of the job without notifying management
· Not using a strip washer to clean a screen
· Leaving the truck unlocked overnight
WCBOMAG: How do you usually do it [firing] over the phone?
Don: If it’s being done over the phone, then it’s definite that this employee is being terminated. There is no longer any working with them, so when I call, I am very stern and have a whole speech written out for me to read stating all the reasons he/she is being terminated. Before I call, I have an argument with them in my mind, thinking about what they are going to say in response to me. I do this so my speech already has rebuttals to their argument and that gives me all the control of the conversation. Once I am done speaking, they really have nothing to say except goodbye.
WCBOMAG: Has anyone ever begged for their job back and you caved in?
Don: No, once you’ve made that decision to let someone go, you have to stick to it. Otherwise, the employee will continue to be a problem, thinking all they have to do is beg and they won’t be fired. That sends a bad message to your other employees. They will then think they can get away with what the other employee did. Firing someone should also send a message to your other employees that bad behavior isn’t tolerated.
WCBOMAG: Do you ever re-hire someone you fired in the past?
Don: Yes we have. Two are working for us right now, and they are our best supervisors. They were let go and didn’t work for us for about a year or more each. They didn’t come in begging for their jobs either. They both came in and just simply said they completely understood why they were fired and were still sorry about it. They said they would understand if we would not want to have them back, but thought they would take a chance and ask anyway. It just so happened we needed people at the time and figured since they already know how to clean windows, it would have been better to have them instead of having to train someone new. We have also had a bunch try and we have told them no because of how severe of a problem they were fired for.
WCBOMAG: Can you explain to us in detail the best / most legal way to fire someone?
Don: You can fire anyone for any reason you like as long as it isn’t for discriminatory reasons, but it is really easy for an employee to file a discrimination complaint so you have to be prepared.
WCBOMAG: You have to remember from the moment you hire a new employee there may come a time when you will have to let them go, and so you must have policies in writing and have them be easily attainable by you and the employee if that time comes. It is extremely difficult to prove to the DOL that you fired someone for not following your policies when you don’t have them in writing. And it can be even more of a problem if the ex-employee says you discriminated against them.
You have to protect yourself from being accused of discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, age, ancestry, nationality, marital or domestic partnership or civil union status, sex, gender identity or expression, disability, liability for military service, sexual orientation, atypical cellular or blood trait, or genetic information, and that includes the refusal to submit to genetic testing. You cannot fire someone if they file a complaint to the state about their employer discriminating them. You cannot fire someone for complaining to the state about how they are paid or the work they are requested to do. Basically, you cannot fire someone for anything they complain to the state about. That’s the law.
The State of New Jersey has a legal doctrine called employment-at-will. It states employment-at-will enables the employee and/or the employer to terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, with or without notice as long as it isn’t against the law.
When they are hired, they are not asked to sign any contract promising them anything like number of hours of work or money. And, we of course would not sign anything either that legally binds us to keeping someone employed because that would then negate the employment-at-will status of the position.
We have an employee handbook that explains all of the company’s policies. The handbook has a disclaimer in the front basically stating that at the time of printing, these were our policies, and that amendments do occur. The handbook also has an explanation of employment-at-will. This handbook is issued to them on their first day for them to read, and they then sign an acknowledgment and agreement of All County Window Cleaning’s policies. The signed and dated acknowledgement and agreement is kept in their file.
Throughout their employment history, we keep detailed notes of their progress, customers’ feedback on them, supervisors’ reviews, and any policy infraction(s) they happen to make.
So, with all of this in place, if an employee is fired we can protect ourselves from being accused of discrimination.
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