How to Effectively and Compassionately Handle Dismissals and Layoffs in a Remote Workplace

Author: Laura Friedel

Earlier this week, Better.com CEO Vishal Garg made news headlines for firing 900 employees over a Zoom call – in the midst of the holiday season. The termination was effective immediately.

We know that our clients and readers are unlikely to take such drastic action, but how does a business or manager lay off employees effectively and compassionately while operating in a remote workplace?

  1. Always have difficult conversations, including terminations and layoffs, on a one-on-one basis. Even if you can’t be in the same room as the person physically, the employee’s manager should have a personal conversation with the employee over video conference. 
  2. Make sure that the news is shared individually, not to a large group.
  3. Consider timing. If there are other major events going on in the employee’s life, such as a wedding or major holiday, you may want to reconsider the timing of the termination. 
  4. Don’t name-call. The reasons for termination can be communicated, whether it is company downsizing or poor performance, but avoid name-calling.
  5. Have a second person (ideally a representative from HR) present for the meeting in case there’s later a question about what was said. 
  6. Look at any applicable employment contracts or other relevant legal documents. If the employee has an employment contract in place, you’ll want to understand the terms of that agreement before making any employment decisions or having the conversation about dismissal.
  7. Keep your emotions in check. Employment terminations are a challenging situation for anyone, but it’s important to not focus on your own feelings when having the conversation with the employee.
  8. Discuss lay-offs and other employment separations with labor and employment counsel before making decisions. An employment attorney can help guide you through the termination process so that it goes as smoothly as possible and you minimize the risk of any potential legal action from a disgruntled ex-employee.

If you have any questions regarding remote workplace issues, please reach out. A member of our Labor & Employment Group would be happy to speak with you.

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