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How to Lay People Off with Dignity

By / December 22, 2014 / Uncategorized No Comments

It’s hard to lay an employee off. But sometimes doing so is a necessary part of doing business — and if you have to do it, you want to make sure you do it right. If you have to adjust your staffing levels and find that you need to let some employees go, there are several things you can do to ensure the process is handled in a dignified manner.

Don’t Treat Departing Employees Like Criminals

If this is a layoff and not a firing for behavior or performance, don’t treat your former employees like they’re poison. When employees are escorted out before being allowed to retrieve personal items from their workstations or offices, that’s insulting, says Donna Ballman of Ballman Law Firm and author of Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired.

“If you don’t have any reason to expect violent behavior or theft from an employee, let them have some dignity,” she says. “Let them remove their personal items and leave without an escort. Let them say goodbye to their friends and co-workers as long as they don’t make a scene.”

Offer Some Kind of Support

Layoffs are traumatic for people going through them, and they can feel cut off from their former lives. If you can, offer some kind of a severance package, even a small one. “This isn’t someone who harmed the company in some way – it’s a valued employee who is being sacrificed for the company’s bottom line,” Ballman says. “Offer some outplacement services to help them transition to a new job. Waive restrictive covenants as much as you can so they can find something quickly.”

Don’t Cut Off Health Insurance

Employees who are laid off have probably already had money taken out of their paychecks for that month’s health insurance coverage, so don’t steal their wages by cutting off that insurance effective the day of the layoff, Ballman says. Let it extend to the end of the month. “It’s the right thing to do to give them time to transition to the Affordable Care Act or COBRA with no interruption in their insurance coverage.”

Take Responsibility

Don’t run away from the fact that the layoff process is painful and difficult — it’s up to you to make sure it’s handled properly. “I always advise employers, don’t expect a smooth or dignified process, but you should at least plan for a smooth and dignified layoff because you’re the leader and this is what effective leaders do,” says Charles Krugel, a management side labor and employment lawyer. Keep emotion out of the process and focus on handling it well.


“Don’t cut off two-way communication between those in charge and those losing their jobs,” Krugel says. Communicating openly and honestly will keep the process dignified and can help you avoid lawsuits down the line.

If your company is in the difficult position of needing to lay people off, getting professional help can make it safer and easier. Contact us to learn how our professionals can help you conduct the process legally, ethically and compassionately.

HR Solutions is a human resources outsourcing firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We eliminate human resources headaches for businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees by handling their payroll, employee benefits, regulatory compliance and other staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can streamline your company’s human resources function to save money and reduce risk.

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