Jonathan M. Brenner, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Los Angeles office, was quoted in HR Dive, in “How to Fire Employees Compassionately,” by Riia O’Donnell.

Following is an excerpt:

If an employee is surprised to be fired for cause, some process along the way has broken down.

Terminating an employee because of their actions or behaviors should be the last step in a process of progressive disciplinary actions, or as a result of an infraction so significant, immediate separation was warranted. If the staff member didn’t see it coming, or wasn’t aware of the rule they broke, something is in need of correction. But if an employer must terminate an employee, doing so compassionately says a lot about how an organization respects and values employees.

Don’t Sugarcoat It

“Two things to pay attention to in conducting employee separations respectfully and professionally are candor and discreetness,” Jonathan Brenner, attorney with Epstein Becker Green, told HR Dive in an email. Terminations are not easy discussions to have, he said, and it can be tempting to sugar coat things; to water down, omit, or distort the reasons for the action; or to be disingenuously apologetic. Being candid with an employee that you are terminating is a sign of respect for that person, and it also avoids the potential appearance of being defensive about the decision and the action being taken. …

Understand that HR Needs to be Involved Immediately

Brenner believes managers and HR both play a meaningful role in managing the termination. “Managers bring a level of personal knowledge and decisional credibility to the separation meeting,” he said, while HR professionals provide another voice that can clarify discussion points and represent the company’s policies as a whole. …

Be a Human Being

Discretion and compassion are key. Keep the meeting discreet and low profile, Brenner suggested, “to avoid unnecessary open display of the action to peers and colleagues.” While they needn’t be covert operations, “using a little sensitivity to scheduling such meetings at the end of or after (or before) the workday and on days when fewer colleagues will be present can go a long way.”

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