Termination Letter Required?

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Question

We had a new hire who worked in our medical office for less than 6 weeks. The doctors decided she was not able to provide the level of care or service needed. She was not prepared to give information about a patient when entering a room, didn't seem to be able to engage and connect with the patients or staff, or understand our processes very well. Based on these factors we decided she was not a good fit for the office. She started on July 24th and we terminated her employment on August 31. She does not have a contract with our office. She sent a text that said: "I would like to request a formal letter of termination which outlines the infractions I committed, as well as any means of remediation that were offered that lead to my termination for my records." Are we required to provide her any type of letter?

Answer

When an employment relationship is at will, then generally either party is free to terminate said relationship at any time, for any reason (the employer's reason of course must be a lawful one), and with or without notice to the other party. There is no federal employment law that requires an employer to provide a "formal letter of termination" of any kind, let alone one that "outlines the infractions ... committed, as well as any means of remediation that were offered that lead to [the] termination" of employment. While some states do have statutory requirements to provide separating employees with notice of termination or similar, we are not aware that this is the case in your particular state.

If company policy, past practice, or a contract support providing a letter of termination to the effect requested by the former employee (or to any other), the employer would do well not to deviate from such precedent. If, however, the employer's policy and practice do not support providing a termination letter and there is no precedent in this regard, we are not aware that the employer must honor the former employee's request here (if it does so now, this will set a precedent). Still, keep in mind that a request of this nature may signal a forthcoming claim from the separated employee, so the employer may want to put its insurance carrier on notice of this possibility (it may in fact be required to do so – you will want to check your policy or consult with your broker/carrier for specific information as to your obligations in this scenario, if any, to preserve coverage rights).

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Published Date:October 19, 2021

Categories: HR Question of the Month