Employee Termination Letter | Should You Give A Reason?

The employee termination letter has many purposes. First, it gives the employee formal notice his employment has ended. Second, the letter helps you start the termination meeting. Third, it helps you fight nervousness in the meeting. When you don’t know what to say, you should just read the note. Finally, the employee keeps a copy of the letter. It helps him remember and understand what occurred in the final meeting. Often, this meeting is a blur to the terminated worker, and he only partially hears what you say.

Including “The Reason” In The Employee Termination Letter

Many supervisors and HR managers wonder if the letter should include the reason for the firing. I recommend it does. This may be surprising to you.

Here’s why I recommend this.

Including the reason is a dignified move. By clearly voicing a legitimate reason, the employee doesn’t wonder why you fired him and doesn’t immediately call his lawyer in anger. And, when the lawyer reviews the letter, he’ll see it’s a losing case as you have a well-documented, legitimate reason. So, including the reason prevents a lawyer from taking the case on contingency.

Also, many states compel the employer give the real reason at the worker’s request. The states call these the “service letter” laws. Since law will force you to give the reason anyway, you might as well include it up front.

It’s important to give an “honest” reason in the employee termination letter. Don’t give a false reason to soften the blow, such as the “business is down, we just have to let you go,” when the real reason is poor job performance with three written warnings as proof. Also, never put in any reasons you can’t prove. You’ll win or lose in court based on the credibility of your reasons.

In short, you should give the real reason regardless of how hard it’s on the employee. He’ll get over it, and you’ll soften the blow with a severance package.

The above is an excerpt from the Employee Termination Guidebook by Dan Betts. This is an excellent resource which shows you how to terminate properly. It also includes several forms including an employee termination letter template.


employee termination letter, notice, agreement, separation, firing


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