Terminating the Employment Relationship

CATEGORY: Employment Law, Public Agency

Employment relationships are similar to personal relationships; rarely do they end to both parties’ satisfaction.  One party often would like the relationship to continue, while the other party has a beneficial interest in severing the relationship and moving on to greener pastures. If done correctly, a “break-up” will allow both parties to move forward with no or relatively few feelings of resentment.  Conversely, a “bad break-up” may leave one party harboring resentment and looking for retribution or money.  Unlike in personal relationships, retribution for a “bad break-up” in an employment relationship may lead to a lawsuit, which could lead to liability and certainly will lead to spending money litigating, settling or both.

There are two ways an employment relationship ends:  involuntarily and voluntarily.  For purposes of this workbook, an involuntary separation occurs when the employer severs the employment relationship with an employee who otherwise desires to continue working for the employer.  Voluntary separations occur when an employee elects to end the employment relationship.  While liability most often arises out of involuntary separations, it can arise out of voluntary separations if an employer does not protect itself.  The purpose of this Workbook is to provide public employers with guidance regarding the best practices and procedures to use when involuntarily or voluntarily ending the employment relationship with an employee or group of employees.  The majority of the workbook focuses on involuntary separations; however, parts of the workbook touch on best practices for avoiding liability in voluntary separations, such as when an employee elects to retire.

When using this Workbook, it is important to consider that it is only a guide and cannot be relied upon for definitive legal advice regarding a specific situation.  Ending the employment relationship with an employee often requires a unique, fact-intensive analysis.  The analysis can change with the absence or addition of a single fact.  Therefore, we advise you to consult an attorney when dealing with a situation that could lead to future liability.

Topics Include:

  • Terminating an Employee
    • Follow Rules and Procedures for Termination
    • Consider the Nature of the Employment Relationship
    • Permanent, or “For Cause,” Employees
    • Part-Time Employees
    • Contract Employees
  • Legal Ramifications to Consider Prior to Ending the Employment Relationship
    • Discrimination Claims
    • Retaliation Claims
    • Termination for Private Conduct
  • Termination for a Disability that Cannot be Accommodated
    • Interactive Process and Reasonable Accommodation
    • Defenses to Accommodation:  Health and Safety, and Undue Hardship
    • Inability to Accommodate
  • Retirement and Retirement Incentives
    • Disability Retirement
    • Service Retirement
    • Early Retirement Incentives
  • Layoffs
    • Layoff Rules
    • Duty to Meet and Confer Over Impact of Layoffs
    • Potential Legal Ramifications: Discrimination/Wrongful Termination/Retaliation
    • Layoffs In Lieu of Termination:  Due Process Concerns
  • Legally Enforceable Settlement and Separation Agreements
    • Preliminary Issues
    • Common General Provisions
    • Variable Provisions
    • Sealing Personnel Documents
    • Taxation of Money Paid Pursuant to an Agreement
    • Discussion of Agreements at Public Meetings
  • Post-Separation Obligations
    • Final Payment of Wages
    • Unemployment Insurance Benefits Requirements
    • Cobra Notification


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