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There is no definitive best practice on whether to present a written document to an employee at the time of discharge.   However, whether the termination is presented in written format or verbally relayed to the employee you should present all reason(s) for the separation (Do not sugar coat and be specific to the facts and policy violations).

Example case – Employee is found sleeping on the job, multiple first hand witnesses.  Company policy states sleeping on the job is grounds for immediate termination.  When the employee woke she was speaking incoherently and displaying erratic behavior.  The HR Department determined that the employee should be drug tested.  The drug test specimen, when obtained from the employee, had no temperature reading.   The lab staff sent the specimen off for testing and did obtain a positive result.  Throughout the testing period and at the time of discharge the employee disputed the test and results, claimed the specimen was not valid and had been altered by lab staff.  

The employer supplied a written termination document to the employee and the only reason noted for discharge was “Violation of Drug Policy”.  There was nothing noted on the sleeping on the job.  The Unemployment Insurance Administrative Law Judge deemed that information relating to the sleeping violation would not be allowed in the hearing as that was not given as a reason for the discharge.  The resultant appeal was very lengthy and required testimony from many employer witnesses whereas if the sleeping violation would have been listed there would have been a very brief hearing as the claimant admitted during testimony that she was sleeping on the job. 

Please feel free to share the SMART – HR Tip with anyone that may find benefit.

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