The decision to fire an employee, and how you go about it, can be one of the most difficult, and potentially perilous, choices you make as an employer.
Termination concerns (especially if you are firing someone for cause) broadly break down into two areas: pre-termination and the termination process itself.
Making the Decision to Fire Someone
Prior to your decision to terminate an employee, you may be wondering:
- Do I need to fire anyone? It’s common for employers to be suspicious of wrongdoing without being certain enough to act. This leaves employers feeling taken advantage of (or worse, imperiling their business!) but also stuck, not knowing what to do next.
- Who should I terminate? Perhaps you are certain that misconduct exists (items are going missing, accounts don’t add up, etc.) but you don’t know which employee is culpable. Or you may suspect a culprit but aren’t sure whether your suspicions are enough to act on.
The Dangers of Getting it Wrong
Firing someone is usually necessary when there is misconduct; especially if the employee’s behavior involves illegal activity like fraud or workplace theft. However, being fired damages the reputation and career prospects of the terminated employee. So, it is never a decision that should not be taken lightly—if you’re not careful you could be opening yourself up to a significant lawsuit.
If you’re wrong in your accusation – or even if you’re right, but can’t prove it, or that it was reasonable to believe it – you may face severe monetary damages.
The other side of the coin is deciding not to take action for fear of getting it wrong. In which case your business will continue to suffer, and you will have to keep working with (and paying!) an employee you don’t trust. Not only does your bottom line suffer, but so does morale. Often others are aware of coworker’s misconduct but are unwilling to report it.
A PI Can Find the Truth and Establish Due Diligence
The best solution is always to avoid a lawsuit. The next best thing is to make sure that if you do face a lawsuit, you will prevail. A private investigator can dramatically increase the odds of avoiding or prevailing in any litigation.
Private investigators are able to conduct an investigation that will help you detect any ‘bad apples’ among your employees. A good PI can conduct interviews, research employee backgrounds, collect evidence, and find the truth to help you determine whether there is any misconduct, and if so, who is culpable. A thorough investigation enables the PI to collect evidence in support of the allegations you may be forced to make, and to testify as an independent witness, should the need arise.
What’s more, a skilled investigator is subtle and discrete. One of the biggest assets of hiring a PI for this kind of work is that they routinely run investigations completely unbeknownst to the actual subject of the investigation.
Finally, consulting a PI before making any allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing will help demonstrate that you performed your due diligence in reaching your conclusions, and were reasonable in your decision to terminate an employee. This is an extremely important preventive measure with respect to any potential litigation that may arise.
The Termination Process
Before terminating an employee, you should take time to consider the conversation itself, and know The Right Way to Fire Someone. But even when you take all the right steps, separation from employment is an emotionally fraught process.
No matter the circumstances for termination, it can cause feelings of anger and resentment that may pose a real threat to you, your employees, or your business.
Private investigators are skilled at running background checks and assessing the likelihood that a person will create a threat to people or property. PIs routinely search law enforcement databases and other resources all without the subject of an investigation ever knowing. If your employee has a violent past, or is in any way unstable, a PI is likely to discover this and can work with you to craft a strategy to terminate the employee while minimizing any potential threat they may pose.
Escorting Terminated Employees from Premises
This may seem harsh, but the reality is that terminated employees are often angry and concerned with their futures. A person who has just been fired may attempt to remove evidence, take company property, delete or damage data, or even lash out violently.
If your business doesn’t have its own security staff, a PI can be present during the termination in order to ensure that the employee departs the premises peaceably and without taking company resources, supplies, or intellectual property.
Acting as an Independent Witness
Even if you do have a security staff, the presence of someone external to the company, like a PI, will often reduce the risk of a terminated employee committing any bad acts during their exit.
However, if something does occur it can be invaluable to have a PI present for their ability to testify to whatever happens as an independent witness. In court, the testimony of a private investigator will typically carry more weight than that of company employees or security staff because the PI is an independent party with no vested interest in the outcome of a lawsuit.
A PI Can Help with Involuntary Separation from Employment
If you’re thinking about firing someone, it’s important to get it right. This is truly a situation in which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A PI can help discern whether there is a need to terminate someone and ensure that you fire the right person. Further, a private investigator can help you shield yourself from legal battles by establishing that you performed your due diligence and by acting as an independent witness. Finally, if you do need to end somebody’s employment, a PI can help you do it in the safest way possible and reduce the likelihood of any violence, theft, removal of evidence, or deletion of proprietary data.
If you are considering an employee termination and have any concerns, contact Inter-State Investigative Services for a free consultation.