How to fire an employee within the probation period

Updated February 21, 2017

As an employer or human resources representative, it is almost inevitable that you will have to terminate an employee. But what happens should an employee be fired during a probation period? Depending on the employer (public versus private, civilian versus military) or the position itself, during a probation period there are several guidelines that protect the company from any negative backlash from the termination.

Review the company's employer-employee contract. This legally binding document preserves all criteria regarding the requirements and expectations of both parties, and will include the guidelines concerning the employee's probation period and the company's rights to termination. Once the employee has signed this contract, it is proof that they have read and understood the guidelines.

Meet directly with the employee to discuss the termination process. Many employers will have undertaken one, if not several, performance reviews on the employee during the probation period to assess whether the employee is competent and able to perform the duties required of the position. If they are available, cite any poor performance reviews and/or disciplinary warnings as the reason for the termination, and be sure to have the documentation to back it up.

Follow the company's formal termination process. Depending on the state, an employer may have to file formal paperwork indicating the termination. For instance, in an "at-will" work state, the employer can terminate any employee for any reason at any time. However, this can be problematic for the employer who could be brought up on charges of workplace discrimination and taken to court over the firing.

Comply with state and federal work force laws. In states with at-will employment (either the employer or the employee can end the partnership for any reason), termination can be immediate depending on its cause (i.e.; violence, drugs, threats to company security). If legal action is taken against the company, hire an attorney that specialises in employment and work force labour law.

Things You'll Need

  • Employer/employee contract
  • Performance review(s)
  • Any disciplinary warnings/citations
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About the Author

Shannon Johnson has been a freelance writer since 2008, specializing in health and organic and green-living topics. She practiced law for five years before moving on to work in higher education. She writes about what she lives on a daily basis.