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Q&A: We want to terminate an employee who doesn’t fit with our culture. Can we do this? Do you foresee any issues?

Question:

We want to terminate an employee who doesn’t fit with our culture. Can we do this? Do you foresee any issues?

Answer from Kyle, PHR:

First things first, check your policies and any correspondence (like an offer letter) that have been given to the employee to ensure that you have established an at-will employment relationship. Most employers state that employment is at-will, meaning an employee can be terminated at any time, with or without notice, and with or without cause, for any reason not prohibited by law. If an at-will employment relationship exists, you may terminate the employee for not fitting in with your culture, but there are certainly some things to consider beforehand.

Terminated employees sometimes challenge their employer’s decision to terminate them, alleging discrimination or some other unlawful employment practice. Your best defense is to be able to provide documented reasons for every termination and demonstrate good-faith efforts on your end to help the employee improve. Simply saying the employee didn’t fit with your culture doesn’t provide much information or do anything to counter a claim that the termination was unlawful.

Therefore, think about what you mean when you say the employee doesn’t fit with your culture. If your expectations are clearly established and you can point to specific behaviors of the employee that did not meet those expectations, you may have a solid case for termination. You should also be able to show that you gave the employee a chance to improve and that you would terminate any employee under the same circumstances. In other words, you should be able to demonstrate whether an employee fits with your culture and show that the consequences for not fitting with the culture are the same for everyone. Documentation is key. If you haven’t done these things, I would not recommend termination.

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Kyle, PHR

Kyle joined us after six years of freelance writing and editing. He has worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, successful business leaders, and non-profit organizations. His book, a memoir about grief and hope, was published by Loyola Press in 2013.

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