Implementing certain practices and procedures can help employers limit their potential legal exposure and liability when addressing this recent trend. Employers should consider the following best practices to limit legal exposures and reputational consequences stemming from “Watch Me Get Fired” videos:

  • Limit legal pitfalls. Before conducting termination meetings, employers should ensure they avoid saying anything that could increase the risk of or lead to legal liabilities. Training those involved in termination meetings to be aware of workers’ rights and legal protections can help ensure these conversations are conducted appropriately and avoid prohibited conduct or behavior.
  • Be prepared for the conversation. Employers must consider that anything that happens in the workplace can easily be recorded and shared online. Thus, it’s important to consider how a termination conversation will be perceived by the employee and, potentially, others. Thinking about the message and how it will impact employees can help ensure that such conversations are conducted in a professional manner. This may include developing talking points, anticipating what questions the employee will ask or determining what information is necessary to share with the individual.
  • Stay professional. Recorded termination meetings that go poorly or are conducted in an unprofessional manner can damage an organization’s reputation and brand. Lacking empathy, being unprepared or not involving a worker’s direct manager can send the wrong message to the worker and general public, causing an employer to appear overly harsh or insensitive. Individuals participating in termination meetings should conduct themselves professionally, whether the meeting is in-person or virtual.
  • Avoid false statements. False statements can show bad faith and lead to legal troubles and reputational harm. Employers should avoid making statements during termination meetings, including promises of benefits or privileges to which an employee would not be entitled.
  • Establish workplace policies. Employers can implement policies addressing audio, video and other recordings in the workplace. This may include a general prohibition against recording workplace meetings and conversations without the consent of all participants. Such workplace policies can provide employers with grounds to terminate individuals who violate them. Additionally, establishing a practice of asking employees at the beginning of termination meetings to confirm whether they’re recording the conversation can be an effective way to avoid or minimize the potential legal or reputational harm from recorded termination meetings. However, in some circumstances, employees may have the right to make recordings at the workplace (e.g., engaging in protected concerted activity under the NLRA). Therefore, employers should ensure that workplace prohibitions against recordings are consistent with federal, state and local laws.
  • Use performance management. Lack of performance management can lead to a negative termination experience or even surprise, which can often increase the odds of an individual taking legal action or causing reputational harm. This is especially true if an individual hasn’t been made aware of their performance issues before the termination meeting. Conducting regular performance evaluations and proactive employee management can help lessen the surprise when an employee is terminated for performance issues. Employers should establish a transparent work culture where issues, concerns and goals are discussed openly and often. This can help employees recognize when they’re not meeting expectations.

Employers should do their best to deliver termination messages in a compassionate and dignified manner. Conducting termination meetings as if the world were watching can help organizations reduce the risk of finding themselves on the negative end of a viral sensation. By establishing best practices for terminations, employers can improve their offboarding processes, strengthen their brands and limit legal risks.

Feel free to reach out to us to seek assistance with any workplace guidance. We look forward to supporting your needs and contributing to the success of your organization.