Last week I was contacted by a client to conduct an investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment. I began my investigation the very next day. I interviewed the accused, the complainant, and the witnesses named as having direct eyewitness testimony.
As it turned out, all of the witnesses corroborated the complainant’s version and there were no witnesses who could corroborate the accused version. After a thorough review of the evidence and testimony, a decision was made and the accused was to be terminated for serious violation of company policy.
The termination meeting plan was simple and to the point: meet in the conference room and inform the accused of the investigation findings, inform the accused that her employment was terminated, and inform this newly terminated employee of the customary items, (i.e. COBRA information will be sent, please update G&A with any change of address for W-2 purposes, return of any company property, etc.) In attendance would be the G&A Partner HR representative, the client representative, and the employee’s manager.
Unfortunately, once I finished explaining the result of the investigation, the employee became unhinged. She immediately began screaming that she did not accept the result of the investigation and that she was as mad as she had ever been in her entire life. She repeated these statements several times at the top of her lungs. About every fourth word was a curse word. It appeared that she might become violent.
The client representative stood up from the table and announced that her employment was terminated and that the meeting was over, I then stood up from the table, and we both headed toward the door. Unfortunately, the newly, screaming, terminated employee stood between me and the door. Fortunately, she also headed toward the door, swung the door open, (the client representative caught it before it smashed into the wall), and headed for her workstation, (all the while screaming and cursing, most of which was incoherent).
The terminated employee tossed a few things around at her workstation, walked through the office, headed out through the door, got in her car and drove away, (again, screaming and cursing the entire time). Whew! At least she left the premises without a physical confrontation and she drove away without hitting any other vehicles.
Termination meetings can be an emotionally charged situation. They should be planned for carefully and should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes. It is advisable to have an HR representative be present, and an additional manager to witness the termination meeting. If the employee becomes emotional, remember to remain calm.