When an Employer Can Fire You By Phone or Email
Getting fired is difficult, even if you know that your job is in jeopardy, and even if your boss delivers the bad news as tactfully as possible. Getting fired over the phone – or by some other impersonal means – only makes a firing more painful.
Your soon-to-be-former employer doesn’t have to be nice when they fire you. In most cases, they can let you go without notice or warning and tell you in any manner they choose.
Can You Get Fired by Email or a Phone Call?
Unless you are covered by an employment contract or state law that stipulates how you can be terminated, there are no restrictions on how an employer can fire you. Employers can fire employees over the phone, by paper letter or email, in person - or even by sending a text message.
Employer Termination Policies
While an employer can fire you over the phone, or via text or email, this is not a typical company’s policy. Most employers know that these methods of firing would hurt staff morale. Word of harsh firings can reverberate through an organization and impact productivity and retention of key employees.
Most employers create standard policies for firing and discharging staff. Typically, this includes a meeting with a Human Resources representative in which you go over the terms of your termination and leave detailed documentation of your separation, such as a signed document. The company may have provided a warning in advance and have given the employee the opportunity to improve performance. This is not a requirement unless stipulated by company policy or employment agreement.
It isn’t good policy to discharge employees through email or text for a multitude of reasons. None of those reasons include a legal prohibition against firing in such an impersonal way. In most cases, if your employer wants to send a "you're fired" text, they can.
Unless your employment is covered by a personal or union employment contract that stipulates the method of communication that is required for a termination, your organization can convey that message in any way they choose.
Typical Termination Process
Almost all organizations do have a set process for discharging staff, which normally includes a meeting with a Human Resources or management representative who will go over benefits and any other conditions for your separation.
Organizations also want solid documentation that you have received their notice of termination, such as a signed document or registered mail receipt.
What To Do If You're Fired
Regardless of how you are informed of a firing, make sure your employer provides all the benefits that are outlined in your employee manual or contract, like severance pay for unused vacation or sick pay.
Avoid retaliating in a harsh way if your employer uses an inappropriate method to inform you of a termination. Although it might feel good at the moment to vent your feelings, any ill will that is created can backfire should future employers seek input about your background from your prior organization.
While a firing over the phone or via text is not typically illegal, there are instances of wrongful termination. Wrongful termination happens when an employee is discharged from employment for illegal reasons or if company policy is violated when the employee is fired.
If you believe your termination was wrongful or you have not been treated according to the law or company policy, you can get help. The US Department of Labor, for example, has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim.
How to Handle Getting Fired
Whether or not you were wrongfully terminated, it is important not to beat yourself up. Firings can happen to anyone. Rather than dwell on it, focus on what you should do next.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.