How to Handle Employee Termination

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors

Ending an employment relationship is not a very easy thing to do. It should be the last action, taken only when all efforts to sustain the relationship have not been successful.

You interview and train an employee with the hope they will be an added bonus to the workplace. A person able to demonstrate the requisite knowledge and ability to successfully perform the duties of the job and work well with the dentist and other employees makes for a successful hire.

However, when something goes awry and the employee isn’t working out, appropriate steps must be taken to maintain a quality office. Thus, a termination plan is required.

How to Handle (and Avoid) Termination

Below are guidelines managers should adopt to maintain a productive workforce, avoid unwanted termination and allow for smooth termination when all other avenues have been exhausted.

  • When persons are hired, make sure they have a clear understanding of what their duties and responsibilities will entail including your expectations on what constitutes good job performance.
  • Provide a position description of their job duties and responsibilities with expected deadlines of completion whenever possible.
  • Provide any written office procedures regarding rules of conduct and safety, working hours, break times, and sick and vacation time.
  • Let them know they will be on probation for three, six, nine, or twelve months. Six months is a standard probation period. Make sure they are aware they are an At-Will Employee, meaning their employment can end at any time within that period based on job-related reasons.
  • Once their probation period has ended, termination becomes a more involved procedure.
  • Best practices require accurate documentation to be maintained on performance and shared with the employee on a timely basis. The documentation should include accomplishments and deficiencies in their job performance.
  • First comes a verbal or written warning. You must let the employee know exactly why they are getting this warning and how many days they will have to correct the problem.
  • A verbal or written warning should be discussed with the employee. You must let the employee know exactly why they are getting the warning and how many days/weeks they will have to correct the problem. Encourage the employee to discuss any difficulties they may encounter prior to the expected time for completion. Make note of the time and date of the warning.
  • If the employee is unsuccessful, a written suspension letter may be issued. The letter should include the prior counsel/warnings and how many days of suspension they will receive without pay. The employee must affix their signature to acknowledge receipt of the letter. Inform the employee their signature does not mean they agree to the suspension only that they have received it.
  • A termination letter should be given in person by the doctor (preferably), with a signature of acknowledgment, and witnessed by you or by another higher-level staff member, not their co-worker. If the employee is not available for in-person termination, a certified letter must be sent to the last known address with the return receipt requested and by regular mail.
  • Copies of all disciplinary actions should be kept in the employee file and a copy given to the employee.

By adhering to the above guidelines, you are allowing the employee every opportunity to correct their actions and maintain their employment. However, there are actions that are grounds for immediate termination. These actions include but are not limited to:

  • Egregious insubordination
  • Violence in the workplace
  • Threatening other employees
  • Theft of property of the employer or of other employees
  • Alcohol or illegal drug use while on duty
  • Coming to work under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Sleeping on the job
  • Misuse/abuse of office property

Hopefully, this will help protect your practice from any unwarranted stress. This is why probation periods are a must. Not only do they give you time to evaluate, train, and complete appropriate paperwork that reduces the odds of legal issues, but they give you both the opportunity to evaluate if the job and work environment are a good match.

About the Author

Veronica La Chapelle Veronica La Chapelle, FAADOM, began her career in dentistry after retiring from a municipal government position she had held for 27 years. Of course, dentistry was a new industry for her, but she is happy to have learned so much and continues to learn every day. Today, Veronica is the Assistant Manager for Advanced Premier Dental and Implant Dentistry in The Woodlands, TX.

She has been a lifetime member of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) since joining the association in 2009. Veronica received her Fellowship (FAADOM) in 2013 and will receive her Mastership (MAADOM) in September in Scottsdale, AZ.

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