Q: Should I consider rehiring a fired employee?

A: Probably not. An employee who has been fired for cause is much more likely to have a poor attitude toward your firm than a fresh hire will. Even if the problems that led to the firing seemed to have disappeared, don’t rehire—you are just asking for trouble.

Keep in mind I am not referring to “laid-off” employees who were let go because your company didn’t have enough work for them or had to cut costs in a general layoff. I would not hesitate to rehire laid-off employees, as long as their performance was satisfactory.

Q: Are there any specific steps suggested to avoid an age discrimination suit?

A: In addition to the steps suggested throughout this section that should be observed prior to and during a firing, consider hiring an older individual to replace the fired employee. Of course, you still need to make sure that you are not discriminating against any other protected class of employee during the hiring process. This isn’t an ironclad guarantee of winning an age discrimination suit, but it sure won’t help the plaintiff’s case!

Q: Is it better to fire several people at the same time?

A: If you have decided to fire more than one individual, it is best to fire them simultaneously. If you make the firings piecemeal, remaining staff members will wonder, “Who’s going to get the ax this week?” Generally, when you are considering “firing” several people at the same time, you are really considering letting them go because of the lack of work or to cut costs—not for a particular individual performance reason. So especially if that is the case, make sure that people in your office are using the terminology of “laying off” workers, not “firing” them.

Q: Should I announce the reasons for a firing to others?

A: No. There’s already enough risk involved in a firing. When customers or vendors call, instruct the receptionist or other personnel to simply say, “John Doe is no longer with us. Sally Smith has taken over his duties. May I connect you with her?”

If the terminated employee was a key manager, you may feel compelled to detail the reasons to other managers. This is okay, but don’t reveal anything that you can’t substantiate. Avoid negativity and insist that the topic remain confidential.

However, if the employees are being laid off due to a lack of work or a general effort to cut company expenses, then this situation is very different—I would announce the reason.

Q: Should I fire someone who is leaving soon anyway?

A: Often, but not always, employees who have given notice slow down their work pace in the period before their actual departure. If you aren’t happy with this, ask them, sincerely and in a nice way, if they would prefer to leave earlier. But make it their choice.

If the employee would like to continue in your employ until the announced departure date, encourage him to keep up his work pace, but don’t push the employee to leave earlier. The legal risk for the company and the trauma that may be caused to other members of your workforce are good enough reasons to avoid a firing in this instance. Besides, the employee has done you the courtesy of giving you advance notice of departure.

Q: What can I do to avoid a lawsuit after firing someone?

A: If you are seriously concerned about this possibility, contact an attorney that specializes in employment law. Depending on the situation, the steps the attorney recommends may include paying your standard severance pay package, offering extra severance pay in exchange for signing a legal release, carefully documenting the reasons for the termination, promptly processing unemployment claims, promptly sending the employee any personal belongings left behind, and paying the employee any past due wages at the same time as the separation, as mandated by law.