Firing at Will: A Manager's Guide

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Apress, Nov 22, 2011 - Business & Economics - 296 pages
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Firing at Will shows managers and employers how to do the most difficult part of their jobs: firing employees. Written by a leading employment lawyer in a refreshingly unlawyerly style, this guide takes the reader through the always-risky process of letting an employee go. Many employers and managers are afraid to pull the trigger when the employment relationship has broken down, and will postpone the decision by using progressive discipline and performance-improvement plans. However, an employer must be able to unload employees who threaten to undermine the company and its prospects, regardless of the risks involved in a termination. This book explains how to do it, how not to do it, and how to minimize the danger of an expensive employee lawsuit.

No one said being an employer or a manager was easy. Fortunately, knowing how to fire employees will make your job much, much easier in the long run and save you heartache. Firing at Will teaches you what you need to know, without any legalese or boring recitations of statutes and case law. This book is filled with plain-English common sense, based on Jay Shepherd’s 17 years of protecting employers in court. The style is conversational and often irreverent, but the lessons and tips are battle-tested. If you want to be a successful manager or employer—and sleep easier—you need to know how to fire at will.

  • Gives employers and managers real-world advice on how to fire employees
  • Teaches how to keep your company—and yourself—out of expensive employee lawsuits
  • Guides you toward building a workplace where you’ll need to fire fewer employees

What you’ll learn
  • How to make the ultimate decision to fire an employee, and how to carry out that decision
  • The 30 riskiest employees to fire
  • The critical “Retained Dignity” factor, and why you need to keep it as high as possible
  • Why progressive discipline and performance appraisals are ineffectual
  • How your hiring methods and decisions can help you avoid firing employees later
  • How to have “gruntled” employees who wouldn’t dream of suing you
Who this book is for

Firing at Will is a handbook for managers, employers, business owners, human resources professionals, and in-house counsel. Most of these readers will have had very little training in the hows and whens and whys of firing employees. Most people just follow their instincts, often leading to disastrous consequences. For anyone who has the responsibility of hiring and supervising employees, Firing at Will gives guidance and direction to lower the risks of employee terminations.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Hardest Part of Your Job

  1. "At Will" Is Alive and Well
  2. The Freedom to Fire
  3. Risky Business: The Perils of Employee Lawsuits
  4. The 30 Riskiest Employees to Fire
  5. Why Me? The Reasons for Firing
  6. How to Fire an Employee
  7. Retained Dignity
  8. The Paper Trail
  9. Second Chances and PIPs
  10. Sign of the Times: Layoffs
  11. Discrimination Cases: Part 1
  12. Discrimination Cases: Part 2
  13. A Big Payday: Wage Cases
  14. He Said, She Said: Sexual Harassment
  15. Lawyering Up
  16. Throw Out Your Personnel Handbook
  17. Hiring to Avoid Firing
  18. Gruntled Employees
  19. Appendix B: Firing Around the World
  20. Appendix A: Firing Checklist
  21. Appendix C: Sample Documents

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About the author (2011)

Jay Shepherd is a writer and speaker focused on fixing workplaces so that individuals are free to do their best work. For 17 years, he worked as an employment litigator and adviser helping companies stay out of trouble. Law & Politics magazine named him one of the Top 100 Lawyers in New England. In 2011, he closed his law firm and opened Prefix, LLC, a firm that helps professionals learn how to price their knowledge. Jay writes two award-winning blogs: Gruntled Employees (, his workplace blog, and The Client Revolution (, which focuses on reinventing the business of law. Jay is married to the chief human-resources officer of a top Boston law firm, and they have two amazing young daughters who enjoy reading so much that they might even read this book. Eventually. Follow Jay on Twitter at @jayshep.

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