Has remote hiring made remote firing acceptable? Tips for when – and when not – to use remote terminations

June 10, 2021
Detroit, Michigan

‘It may be the new workplace equivalent of breaking up by text’

It may be the workplace equivalent of breaking up by text, but with an estimated 25-30% of the workforce working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, remote firing may be the next trend to take hold in the workplace, according to Deborah Brouwer, co-managing partner of Detroit-based management-side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C.

“As workers get hired remotely without ever having stepped foot in the office, the option of remote firing seems like a logical evolution – and the question has certainly been raised by clients, but it’s an option that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis,” Brouwer said. “I’m not suggesting that we should expect firing someone by text, or email, or voice message to become desirable or even ‘normal,’ but when employees are working entirely remotely, ‘normal’ communication channels are different,” Brouwer said.  “If employees are used to meeting via videoconferencing, then it would be odd to suddenly require that employee to come to headquarters for a face-to-face meeting with HR.”

The pluses of terminating someone remotely or by phone:

  • The challenges of dealing with an angry or crying employee are mitigated.
  • There is no ‘walk of shame’ out of the boss’ office or the conference room.
  • The emotional response to the firing can be handled privately, out of view of co-workers.

If choosing to terminate employment remotely, Brouwer says many of the best practices remain the same from a traditional termination; just because the platform is different, does not mean the usual, sound practices should be discarded.  So:

  • Be direct and to the point and keep the interaction brief, noting the termination decision is final.
  • Follow up immediately with a letter confirming the discussion and the terms of the termination.
  • Have a plan in place for recovering employer property and technology—and disconnecting remote access.
  • Is the employee working out of state? Be sure to consider legal guidelines for that state.
  • Communicate to employees with respect and sensitivity to explain that the terminated employee is no longer with the company. Do not provide unnecessary details.

When is remote termination not recommended?

“Terminating an employee is a difficult and emotional process for employers as well as employees; but as uncomfortable as it may be, some scenarios, such as with certain long-term employees or executives, the more personal approach of an in-person termination might be advisable,” Brouwer said.

Brouwer adds that with the very real threat of workplace violence following a termination of any kind, it is imperative that all employee terminations be conducted with consideration of what, if any, added security measures need to be put in place.

About Nemeth Law, P.C.

Nemeth Law specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law, workplace investigations, and management consultation and training for private and public sector employers. The firm also provides arbitration and mediation services. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.