Firing an Employee? Protect Yourself With a Termination Letter

An HR manager and a manager meet with an employee to terminate his employment and hand him a dismissal letter.
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If you need to terminate an employee for poor performance, you'll need to create a simple termination letter that protects you as an employer. Since disgruntled former employees can and often do use anything you put in writing to take legal action, keep the letter simple and don't state a reason for the termination. If you state the cause, you may be limited in court to only using that reason for the termination. By not supplying a reason, your company can use any and all evidence to defend itself.

Check Your Documentation

If the employee's manager has kept performance documentation, have your human resources staff check the documentation to make sure it is dated and will pass legal muster. You don't want to terminate for cause thinking that you have solid documentation—only to find out later that you don't. The proper documentation can protect you in court if a terminated employee files an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit that charges you with discrimination.

Before You Send an Employment Dismissal Letter

Under most circumstances, the only recommended way to dismiss an employee is for the employee's manager and a representative from the human resources department to tell the employee about the dismissal during an in-person meeting. Hold this meeting as soon as you have the information, documentation, and proof necessary to fire the employee. Obviously, this won't apply in cases of ​no-show, no-call job abandonment.

The dismissal letter documents the meeting for the employee and becomes part of the employee's personnel file. Send a dismissal letter to the employee after the termination meeting with return receipt requested, or hand the dismissal letter to the employee at the end of the meeting. Print the letter on company stationery and have it signed by the employee's manager or the company owner.

Sample Employee Letter of Dismissal

You can use this termination letter sample as a model. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.

sample dismissal letter
©TheBalance 2018 
Download the Word Template

Sample Employee Letter of Dismissal (Text Version)

If the case for dismissal for cause is solid and documented well, use this letter as a sample:

Date

Ms. Margaret O'Malley

18361 Cliff Street

Sparta, NJ 07871

Dear Margaret,

This letter confirms your dismissal from the Ernesto 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 the 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.

Regards,

[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

The dismissal letter, while never easy or fun to write, is an important component of an employee termination. It documents the information you need for the employee's file and answers the employee's most obvious questions. Finally, the dismissal letter provides formal documentation in the event of a lawsuit.

Use this sample dismissal letter as a guide, but as in all 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 worldwide 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.