One eternal truth about being an employer is that you will have employees leave. Whether they are fired, quit, retire, or move to a different job, employee turnover is something every employer must deal with. Here are some things that an employer should do when an employee says goodbye:
- Determine what the employee’s obligations are when leaving. Did the employee sign a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement? Does the employee have to train someone else to assume his or her duties? Does the employee have to give a certain amount of notice before leaving? Review the employee’s employment contract and your personnel policies and employee handbooks to determine what the employee’s obligations are upon leaving, and what your obligations are to the employee.
- Communicate these obligations to the departing employee. Send a letter to the departing employee outlining his or her obligations upon leaving. Explain (tactfully) the consequences of not complying with these obligations. Make it clear that you expect compliance. If there is a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement in place, clearly explain what these agreements require the employee to do.
- Determine whether a separation agreement is necessary. If you are concerned that the employee may file a lawsuit after leaving, consider a separation agreement where you pay that departing employee some money in exchange for the employee agreeing not to sue. If you don’t have a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement in place, it may be worth trying to get the departing employee to sign one in exchange for some cash.
- Make sure you pay the employee and collect all of your property. The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act imposes pretty serious penalties on employers who fail to pay an employee for time worked. Don’t take money that the employee owes you out of the employee’s last paycheck, as that is a violation of the Act. Also, make sure that you reimburse the employee for all of his or her work-related expenses, as failing to do that is also a violation of the Act. Additionally, the Wage Payment and Collection Act requires employers to pay employees for any unused vacation time, and the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance requires that employers in certain municipalities pay employees for unused sick leave. And make sure to get everything back from the employee that is yours.
- Notify other employees. Don’t leave people wondering where the employee went. Tactfully explain to your workers that their co-worker has left. Take the high road and refrain from saying negative things about the employee, even if he or she acted poorly.
- Maintain the employee’s personnel file. The Personnel Records Review Act requires an employer to maintain the personnel files of an ex-employee for at least one year after that employee has left and to provide that employee with an opportunity to inspect those files. So, don’t throw the departing employee’s personnel file in the trash when he or she leaves.
Employers should create policies to deal with departing employees. A checklist stating everything the employer should do when an employee has left is not a bad idea. Feel free to contact us for help creating such a policy.