Virginia Tech®home

Separation best practices

Separation of employment is a last resort for when all other efforts to improve performance or behavior have failed. This process is one of the most difficult things a supervisor must do; however, careful planning and documentation can limit misunderstandings and discomfort on behalf of both parties.

When considering separation of an employee, supervisors should consult with Employee Relations and Legal to confirm that the action is consistent with policy and to ensure that the events leading up to the separation have been properly documented and appropriately evaluated. In most cases, the employee to be separated must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. A probationary employee who is not meeting the expectations of the position.
  2. A wage employee or emergency hire who is no longer needed in that position.
  3. A staff employee who has been progressively counseled or disciplined or whose behavior or performance has had a significantly negative impact on the university such as to justify separation with a Written Notice.

Best Practices:

  1. Involve your management chain, Employee Relations, and Legal in the decision. Be sure that there is a well-established and documented basis for the need to separate and that all other approaches to improve performance and/or behavior have been attempted.
  2. If there are safety concerns, consult the Virginia Tech Police Department and evaluate the need to have a police officer present for the separation meeting or standing by in the area. Remember to consider the potential risk to the university’s electronic data and computer systems. If applicable, instruct your department’s IT support to disable the individual’s network access and email in conjunction with the separation meeting. Should you need to access the employee’s electronic files, emails, voice messages, etc., communicate that to IT.
  3. Conduct the meeting as private as possible, ideally at or near the end of the workday in order to reduce the employee’s potential level of embarrassment. It is recommended to have at least one other member of management present as a witness.
  4. Keep the final separation meeting brief and focused. The purpose of the meeting is to communicate the message that the employment relationship is ending. Be prepared to answer questions, but do not engage in a debate about the separation decision. Emphasize that the decision is final.
  5.  Remain compassionate and respectful, as well as firm and clear. Take responsibility for the decision and do not include nor blame others for the separation. Designate a point of contact for the individual for any follow-up issues and advise them of their right to contact the HR Service Center or Employee Relations.
  6. Collect all university property in their possession purchasing card, keys, building access card, cellphone, laptops, uniforms, tools, manuals, etc.). Have the individual gather their personalbelongings and immediately leave the premises.  A supervisor should be present while the employee is collecting personal items to ensure university property is not removed or destroyed. If the individual has a number of personal belongings, consider scheduling a separate time after regular business hours, for them to retrieve their belongings.  In some cases, it may be wise to physically escort the individual to and from the work area.
  7. When you meet with the employee, be sure to have two copies of the termination documentation, one for the employee and one signed to be sent to Employee Relations for the personnel file.  If the letter is sent certified mail, send EmployeeRelations a copy of the letter and the original green card showing receipt of the certified letter.

For additional information, please contact Employee Relations. Do not issue any termination letters, which are available on their website, without first consulting Employee Relations.