Separation Practices: How to Avoid Common Mistakes

An Employee Separation Process & Policy Helps You Avoid Costly Mistakes

As of April 2021, 14 states require employers to provide a separation notice to employees upon termination. Regardless of whether your state requires a notice, an employee separation process is crucial for any company. A common misconception is that at-will employment protects employers from incurring legal liability for termination with or without cause. However, sometimes at-will employment is not enough to protect you from a costly discrimination or harassment suit, or even unemployment claims.

Additionally, it is important to have a clear employee separation process and solid procedures to ensure that when an employee is separated, the process is done in a structured and orderly manner. An employee separation process will help your company comply with any discretion, professionalism, and documentation laws.

Do you have separation policies and procedures in place? Our HR Professionals at Employer Support Services can provide guidance with you about separation practices and ensure compliance.


Officialize a Comprehensive Employee Separation Policy

A Comprehensive Separation Policy should define every case of how and why an employee may be terminated and outline each step of your employee separation process. Management and human resources must have clear guidelines on how to handle each situation.

The policy should cover both voluntary and involuntary dismissal. When it comes to involuntary dismissal, clearly defining reasons for each type of separation will help you avoid violating ADA and EEOC standards.

Make sure your employee separation policy is clear and upfront for management, human resources, and employees. Being consistent with a well-defined policy for any instance will ensure your company is prepared and help you avoid some of the most common mistakes employers make during employment separation.


Define the Employee Separation Process to Remain CompliantOffice workers discussing the employee separation policy

When a separation occurs, it is critical to submit the necessary separation documents and notices to the appropriate entities. Failing to submit the proper paperwork may result in your company’s forfeited rights in appealing unemployment benefit claims. Ensure management knows to report employee resignations or disciplinary actions to your HR department in a timely manner to help prevent legal issues and non-compliance with State or Federal Employment Laws.

Some states require employers to file separation notices within a specific amount of time. For example, in Illinois, a form must be delivered to an employee on their last day of employment or be sent to their last known address within five days of separation. In addition, some states require employers to provide the employee’s final check within a certain time frame. If you offer additional benefits, you must notify your benefit carriers. Employers subject to COBRA requirements must notify their administrator within 30 days after employment is terminated.

If you need assistance developing or implementing a Separation Process, contact Employer Support Services today. Employer Support Services provides tailored solutions based on the size and needs of your organization. Our HR services solutions bring our clients best-in-class technology backed by experienced payroll, benefits, and HR professionals, serving every aspect of people management.

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Common Separation Mistakes to AvoidEmployee leaving office after being fired during the employee's separation process

In addition to submitting the proper paperwork to the correct entities to remain compliant, you must also avoid the following common mistakes that often result in severe consequences for your business.

  • Mistake #1: Inconsistency

Being inconsistent with your separation practices is one of the most common ways to prove unlawful discrimination in the workplace. When you follow your process consistently, you minimize your chances of violating laws and standards.

  • Mistake #2: No Documentation

Ensure you document the termination or separation and the disciplinary actions leading up to the event. Supporting the termination with documentation keeps your credibility intact.

  • Mistake #3: Not Considering the Timing

Avoid immediately terminating an employee who is unable to return to work after exhausting leave. Determine whether additional unpaid time off would be reasonable on a case-by-case basis. Terminating an employee too quickly after leave without accommodation could be construed as discrimination.

On the other hand, if the employee has recently made a complaint to management or human resources, especially about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, terminating could be considered retaliation.

  • Mistake #4: Not Being Honest

Set clear performance expectations with your employees. Be honest about unsatisfactory performance or issues and explain your reasoning for termination. Reasoning, as well as clear documentation, will help you avoid legal and reputation problems.

It is vital that your company has an employee separation policy and process in place to avoid any legal problems and to ensure your employees are treated equally. If you need help with your employee separation policy or process, contact Employer Support Services today at 225-364-3000. Our extensive services will ensure you are kept within legal standards during all separations.

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