Sample Dismissal Letter for an Employee's Poor Performance

An HR manager and a manager meet with an employee to terminate his employment and hand him a dismissal letter.
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Need a sample dismissal letter to use as an example when you want to terminate an employee for poor performance? In most cases, use a simple termination letter that states no reason for the termination. This approach gives the employee nothing to push back against. 

It makes you safer as an employer because what you put in writing can and often is used against you by disgruntled, unhappy former employees who are looking for someone to blame for their woes. So, heed this advice to potentially save yourself from a lot of grief.

If the employee sued you for any reason, by keeping the letter simple and not supplying a reason, you enable your company to use any and all evidence to defend yourself. In a letter that states the cause, that may be the only reason for the termination that you are allowed to use in court.

Dismissal Letter When Your Performance Data Is Solid and Well-Documented

If your performance data is solid, however, use this sample dismissal letter as your guide. You will want to make sure that the case for dismissal for cause is solid and documented well. Anything that is questionable or wishy-washy can potentially be used against you in a lawsuit.

With increasing regularity, you will also find that any lawsuit is accompanied by an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit charging you with some form of discrimination.

To avoid learning everything the hard way, it is strongly recommended that if a manager is keeping the documentation, that your Human Resources staff check the documentation to make certain that it is proper and dated. You will want to ensure that the documentation will pass legal muster if you terminate for cause thinking that you have solid documentation—only to find out later that you don't.

When the reason for dismissal is poor performance, the employee will provide the unemployment compensation office with a copy of the dismissal letter. Since unemployment offices make their own determinations, within guidelines, of local filings, you may experience mixed results dealing with local unemployment offices.

One unemployment office allowed an employee to collect unemployment when the employer sent them 30 pages of performance documentation. The documentation about measurable tasks clearly demonstrated that the employee had been trying to make the employer fire him, yet he was allowed to collect unemployment.

Before You Send an Employment Dismissal Letter

Under most circumstances, the employee's manager and a representative from Human Resources will tell the employee about the dismissal during an in-person meeting with the employee. This is the only recommended way to dismiss an employee except under the most extraordinary circumstances as in the case of a ​no-show, no call job abandonment situation.

This meeting to dismiss the employee for cause should occur as soon as the organization has the information, documentation, and proof necessary to fire the employee. The dismissal letter documents the meeting for the employee and their personnel file.

You can send a dismissal letter to the employee after the termination meeting with return receipt requested, or you can hand the dismissal letter to the employee at the end of the meeting. You should print the letter on company stationery and have it signed by the employee's manager or the company owner.

Sample Employee Letter of Dismissal


Ms. Margaret O'Malley

18361 Cliff Street

Sparta, NJ 07871

Dear Margaret,

This letter confirms your dismissal from the Ford Company for poor performance, effective immediately.

You are dismissed because, despite repeated feedback and performance coaching from your manager, your work performance has not improved. Your performance has been documented in three letters of reprimand which you read and signed. Additionally, the performance improvement plan (PIP) you were participating in put forth specific goals and targets that you agreed to meet by their due date.

You failed to meet the target dates in any of the areas specified within the plan that you and your manager wrote and agreed to together. You were offered resources and additional support that you refused. As a consequence, your dismissal is the result of your refusal to meet the core requirements of your job.

Payment for your accrued vacation days and sick days will be included in your final paycheck* which you will receive on your regular payday, Friday. We can mail your final paycheck to your home or you can make arrangements with your manager to pick it up.

You will also receive a letter that outlines the status of your benefits upon your dismissal. The letter will include information about your eligibility for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) continuation of group health coverage.

You turned in your company badge and smartphone at the time of your dismissal so we have accounted for all company-owned items.

You will need to keep the company informed of your contact information so that we are able to provide the information you may need in the future such as your W-2 form.


Name of Manager or Company Owner

*Please note that laws regarding the final paycheck may vary from state to state and country to country.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

This dismissal letter, while never easy or fun to write, is an important component of an employment termination situation. It documents the necessary information that you need for the employee's file. It tells the employee what he or she needs to know as it answers the employee's most obvious questions. Finally, the dismissal letter provides formal documentation needed in the event of a lawsuit.

Feel free to use this sample dismissal letter as a guide when you need to write your own dismissal for cause letter to an employee. As is always recommended in situations that can result in legal action or other events that are not in an employer's best interests, run your letter by your employment law attorney before you send it to the employee.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.