What Causes Employment Termination?

Voluntary, Involuntary and Mutual Are Employment Termination Options

Woman removes personal effects from her office
Termination Is Not Positive for Either the Employer or the Employee. mediaphotos/E+/Getty Images

Are you interested in the ins and outs of employment termination? Employees land in hot water for many reasons, some inexplicable to employers - some predictable. But, termination is a serious action that generally is the culmination of a series of progressive disciplinary actions.

Termination occurs when an employer or employee ends an employee's employment with a particular employer. Termination can be voluntary or involuntary depending on the circumstances.

Voluntary Termination

In a voluntary termination, an employee resigns from his or her job. Resignations occur for a variety of reasons that include: a new job, a spouse's acceptance of a new job in a distant location, returning to school, and retirement.

Voluntary termination can also occur for less positive reasons. The employee doesn't get along with her boss. She sees no opportunity to continue growth and progress in her current company. The job responsibilities in her current job changed and now, she was no longer doing something that she loved every day.

And, sometimes, it's the appeal of the shiny new job as in the grass is greener.

With valued employees, employers expend efforts on employee retention to limit preventable turnover.

Involuntary Termination

In an involuntary termination, an employer fires the employee or removes the employee from his or her job. An involuntary termination is usually the result of an employer's dissatisfaction with an employee or an economic downturn.

Reasons for involuntary termination range from poor performance to attendance problems to violent behavior. Occasionally, an employee is a poor fit for the job's responsibilities or fails to mesh with the company's culture.

Involuntary termination, such as a layoff, can also occur because an employer lacks the financial resources to continue an employment relationship.

Other events that trigger termination can include mergers and acquisitions, a company relocation, and job redundancy.

With performance problems, the employer most often has tried less final solutions such as coaching from the employee's supervisor to help the employee improve. Escalating progressive discipline in the case of performance issues such as absenteeism is also the norm. In a final effort to help an employee improve his or her performance, many employers rely on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

Used appropriately, the PIP is the employer’s last ditch attempt to communicate the needed performance improvements to the employee. But the PIP, and any escalating disciplinary measures, also provide documentation that demonstrates that the employer made an effort to salvage the employment relationship.

  • Employment at Will: In states that recognize employment at will, an employee may be fired for any reason, at any time, with or without cause. Employers do not even have to give a reason for why the employee is terminated from his or her job.

    To defend against potential charges of discrimination, however, employers are advised to keep documentation even if no case is presented at the termination meeting.

    Employment at will also means that the employee can terminate his or her employment at any time for any reason without cause.
    • Termination for Cause: In other instances of employment termination, the employment is terminated for a reason which is given to the employee and stated in the termination letter. Termination for cause can occur in such situations as:
    • Violation of the company code of conduct or ethics policy,
    • Failure to follow company policy,
    • Violence or threatened violence,
    • Extreme insubordination,
    • Harassment, or
    • Watching pornography online.

    Mutual Termination

    Occasionally, an employer and employee recognize that they are not a good fit for whatever reason. They mutually agree to part ways in a manner that makes neither party culpable for the termination. This approach to termination is called agreeing on an exit strategy. No pain. The unwanted employee, the unwanted job: gone.

    Disclaimer: Please note that Susan makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice on this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice.

    The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel. The information on the site is provided for guidance only, never as legal advice.

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