How to Properly and Safely Terminate an Employee

Posted by Practice Management Institute on Jul 29, 2021 4:27:09 PM
Practice Management Institute

As a Medical Office Manager, there are few actions as uncomfortable as firing an employee. Yet, after verbal warnings, write-ups, and other corrective actions, you know when this time has come to gather your documentation and make difficult decisions about how and when to proceed. But failure to follow proper procedures and federal guidelines could put your practice at risk of an employee lawsuit or a compliance violation. Take a look at some best practices and a termination checklist below to help you proceed professionally and safely.

First, cover your bases.

Document, document, document! Be specific. What actions occurred, what counseling was given, what corrective actions were taken, were they verbal reprimands or official write-ups? An employee incident report should include specifics like dates, locations, and names of others involved in an incident or write-up. Documentation creates a paper trail that demonstrates that the employee was counseled on a specific issue or action, given instructions for how to correct the problem, and given ample opportunity to meet the documented expectations.

Should the employee want to claim unfair termination, you will have documentation that supports your decision.

Examples of documentation:

  • Employee infractions
  • Counseling sessions
  • Expectations communicated
  • Work performance
  • Confrontations
  • Formal and informal conversations relevant to termination

Next, you'll want to make sure you're not terminating as a retaliation action or as discrimination against a protected group. While an employer may legally be able to terminate an employee with or without cause, it is illegal to terminate on the basis of:

  • Serving jury duty
  • Being called to military duty
  • Proceeding under Workers’ Compensation
  • Membership or non-membership of a union or political group
  • Sex, religion, race, color, handicap, national origin, or age

Steps to Properly Terminate an Employee

If the above checks out and you are prepared to terminate an employee, here are some steps to make sure it is done properly.

  • Select the proper time and setting.
  • Conduct the meeting in private such as in the manager or physician’s office.
  • Stick to the point and avoid in-depth discussions and arguments.
  • Termination is not a negotiation.
  • Prepare final pay and paperwork.
  • This may or may not include a severance package.
  • Let the employee know if there will be a reference provided.
  • Don’t change your mind nor allow the employee to change your mind.
  • Speak of the termination in the past tense. “It’s been done. You have already been terminated.”

Your Employee Termination Checklist

When an employee is terminated, go through your checklist to complete the process. This checklist ensures that the employee can no longer access practice property and reduces the risk of retaliation.

  • Keys/badge retrieved
  • Locks or alarm system code changed
  • Security notified
  • Computer access blocked
  • Email account forwarded
  • Voicemail access terminated
  • Parking card surrendered
  • Practice owned property retrieved
  • Long-distance access deleted
  • Forwarding address and phone # given
  • HIPAA Confidentiality Statement signed
  • COBRA information distributed
  • Retirement Plan payout information distributed
  • Final paycheck issued
  • Personnel file examined for completeness
  • Personal belongings gathered
  • Employee escorted from property

Knowing your legal responsibilities and rights will ensure you avoid a lawsuit and penalties.  Above all, make sure your process follows Federal and State guidelines for proper termination.

Learn More About the Legal Aspects of Employee Management in a Medical Office

Knowing how to properly terminate an employee without retaliation is just one of the many legal responsibilities medical office managers face in their role. Take hold of these and other important personnel, financial, and practice management best practices when you study to become a Certified Medical Office Manager.

Take a look at the curriculum and course formats, and register today. 

Learn More and Enroll in CMOM

Topics: Practice management, CMOM, medical office manager topics, medical office compliance, medical practice issues, personnel management

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