Good Neighbors. Great Lawyers.

Five common mistakes in hiring and firing

By Ellen Frantz, La Crosse Employment Attorney on Monday, September 28th 2015


Mistakes made in hiring and firing can be costly, which leads to attorney Ellen Frantz’s advice: “Hire slowly; fire fast.”

“When I say fire fast, I don’t mean it should be a snap decision,” Frantz said. “If someone is not working out and you know it, make the decision rather than have that person hanging around for months. Things usually don’t get better; they usually get worse.

That’s one of many pieces of advice that Frantz offers in her employment law practice because so many employment legal problems are a result of hiring and firing decisions. Frantz said one of the best ways to avoid a need to fire someone is to avoid these common hiring mistakes.

  1. Failing to identify qualifications needed for the position.
  2. Not planning the interview process.
  3. Skipping background checks on prospective employees.
  4. Forgoing personal reference checks.
  5. Hiring a candidate who is “just like you,” rather than someone who meets needs.

When checking references, Frantz said it is natural for people to not want to speak badly about someone else. The way around that is to ask about specific skills.

“Figure out what’s important in your workplace and ask questions related to it,” she said.

The process of firing someone can be equally fraught with potential legal challenges. Here, Frantz cautioned against these common firing mistakes.

  1. Failure to consider whether the employee’s performance could improve with better direction. It is costly to hire and train again
  2. Lacking a process for terminating an employee.
  3. Not explaining the reason for the dismissal. 
  4. Not considering the impact of termination on other staff and possible legal issues.
  5. Not documenting performance issues and discipline throughout the employee’s tenure and the reasons for dismissal.

When hiring or firing, the key is to be prepared, having hiring and firing processes clearly outlined. During the hiring process that means developing in advance a job description, minimum requirements, interview structure and questions. It’s also helpful to schedule colleagues who are critical thinkers to assist in developing the process and to sit in for the interviews to offer different perspectives.

Likewise, be sure to define a process for termination that includes documenting performance concerns during employment, outlining potential legal issues and routine performance appraisals. In the end, the most important thing to remember is to treat all potential, current and terminated employees with the same respect and kindness you want for yourself. 

Article by Ellen Frantz, La Crosse Employment Lawyer. For an employment lawyer in La Crosse WI, call her at 608-784-5678.

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