The Exit Interview with a departing Employee can be a valuable tool for the Employer in two ways. The interview should be viewed as an opportunity to learn about potential problems in the workplace and as a possible means to prevent later lawsuits or administrative claims against the Employer based on the separation.
If the separation results from an involuntary termination, the exit interview will be the meeting at which the Employee is informed that he or she is being terminated. At that time all of the reasons which figured in the decision to terminate should be communicated to the Employee verbally and in writing. Often times, Employers wishing to avoid confronting the Employee with specific adverse performance or conduct information will give vague reasons for the termination, such as the individual is not a "good fit" for the position or the individual's position is being eliminated ( when, in fact, it is not). Such avoidance techniques can backfire against the Employer if the departing Employee later makes a claim against the Employer.
To defend the subsequent claim of wrongful termination, the Employer then brings forth all of the specific information supporting the termination, which the Employer believes will convince any reasonable trier of fact that the Employer was justified in terminating the Employee. The Employee however, shows that the reasons given at the time of termination are not the same reasons now being given by the Employer to defend the claim, raising doubts as to the credibility of the Employer and the true basis for the termination. The Employee can then argue that the grounds for termination advanced by the Employer are merely a pretext for what the Employee will argue are the actual and discriminatory, or otherwise unlawful, grounds for dismissal.
This added burden to the defense of a potential claim can avoided and the potential claim itself possibly even averted by fully and frankly communicating to the Employee all of the performance and/or conduct bases for the dismissal at the time of dismissal. For example, if the grounds for termination are poor attendance or tardiness, the Employee may reveal for the first time that the problem is attributable to a health condition, which is entitled to accommodation under state or federal disability law, or is attributable to claimed harassment by a supervisor or co-worker.
If such a claim surfaces in the exit interview, or at any other point in the employment relationship, counsel should contacted and an appropriate investigation undertaken. It is far better to discover, investigate and appropriately address such matters before terminating action is taken, than to have to explain or defend the failure to have done so in a subsequent wrongful termination action. Moreover, the Employer may find that the person facing termination is not the problem, and that the problem or problems which need to be rectified may lie elsewhere in the Employer's organization.
In the case of a voluntary resignation, it is also important for the Employer to meet with the departing Employee. Like the Employer who does not want to confront an Employee with adverse performance or conduct findings, a dissatisfied or disgruntled Employee may give innocuous reasons for his or her resignation, such as to " pursue other interests", go back to school or "personal reasons". The Employee later makes claim a against the Employer for constructive wrongful termination based on alleged discrimination or other alleged unlawful conduct, or claims for the first time that he or she is owed massive unpaid wages, overtime, or accrued, but unused vacation.
Meeting with the Employee prior to departure to confirm the Employee's reasons for leaving can go a long way to circumvent such claims. At that meeting the Employer will want to have the Employee confirm that he or she is harboring no grievances against the Employer, has no sense of unfair or illegal treatment by the Employer and has no claims for wages or other monies due from the Employer. The exit interview is also an excellent time to obtain the Employee's candid comments about what he/or she thinks are the positive and negative aspects of the Employer's workplace . Such an exit interview is also an advantageous time to confirm return of all company property and remind the Employee of his or her continuing obligation to maintain his/her former Employer's proprietary information confidential. As in the case of a termination, if claims or reports of any allegedly unlawful conduct are made, counsel should be consulted as to how to proceed.
Following this article is a form which the Employer can use to conveniently document the important information obtained in an exit interview. It can be used in the case of voluntary or involuntary separation. The form also serves as a basic checklist of the items that the interviewer wants to cover in the exit interview, however, the Employer may want to tailor this form, after consultation with counsel, to more accurately reflect the particular needs of the Employer's business or workforce. The completed Exit Interview form, together with any related separation paperwork should be placed in the Employee's personnel file and maintained for no less than five years.
EXIT INTERVIEW FORM
Job Title: _________________________________City:__________
Hire Date: _________________________________Last Day of Employment:___________
Reason for Separation from company:
If separation is voluntary, is written resignation attached ____Yes ____ No (If no written resignation, attempt to obtain one).
If no written resignation, what are Employee's stated reasons for leaving?
Employee's reasons for leaving the company have nothing to do with a work related grievance or problem:
Received return of company property as follows:
- Office keys (Initial)
- Credit cards (Itemize below)
- Parking Pass
- Signed Industrial
- Accident Form
- Other (Describe below)
- Receipt of final paycheck calculated as follows:
- Receipt of final paycheck calculated as follows:
- Receipt of COBRA Election Form
- Receipt of 401(k) Participant's Payment Request Form
I have completed this Exit Interview and Report for this person.
I participated in this exit interview and have received a copy of this Exit Interview Report