How To Write Termination Letters (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 15, 2020

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If you’re a manager, it’s an unfortunate reality that you’ll likely need to terminate an employee at some point in your career.

While this is never a fun task, it is possible to do it gracefully, and one of the ways you can do this is by putting effort into writing a clear and professional termination letter.

While this letter shouldn’t be the only notification an employee gets and instead should follow a meeting where you explain what’s happening to them in person, it can help clear up any questions and make the process go more smoothly.

It’s also a legal document that will go into the company’s permanent files. That way, if a disgruntled employee tries to sue the organization for wrongful termination, there is a record of what actually happened. Because of this, it’s essential to talk to your lawyers and follow their advice when you’re writing a termination letter.

In this article, you’ll learn the basics of writing termination letters.

What to Include in a Termination Letter

  1. The name of the employee and company, and the date of the letter. This is a legal document, so including these details, while it may feel unnecessary, is very important.

  2. When the termination goes into effect. Is it effective immediately or on a specific date? Be sure to include this in the letter, preferably early on, so that it’s easy to find.

  3. The reasons for the termination. As always, check with your lawyer about what you should and shouldn’t include, but it’s generally a good idea to explain the reason for the termination.

  4. Any warnings or corrective steps you’ve given the employee. Again, check with your lawyers, but it’s typically wise to detail the previous warnings, additional training, or other corrective steps you’ve given the employee up to this point.

  5. What occurred at the termination meeting. Since you’ll be giving the termination letter to the employee after you’ve talked with them (and because it’s a legal record), it’s also a good idea to include an overview of what happened at the termination meeting.

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    At the very least, you should mention that there was a termination meeting and that this letter confirms what was talked about there.

    Your lawyers may also want you to mention that the employee signed a non-compete, non-disclosure, or separation agreement during the meeting, so be sure to check with them on this.

  6. An explanation of their benefits. You need to inform your employees about what will happen with their benefits, even if you simply tell them that you will be sending them more information later.

  7. What happens with their final paycheck. The termination letter should also include details about any severance pay. These details should also include any information about their final paycheck and any payment they’ll receive for unused vacation or sick days, as well as how they will be receiving this money.

  8. Any other details about company property the employee needs to return. If they have a key card, computer, or another piece of equipment they need to return, it’s a good idea to list this in the letter. If they’ve already returned it, mention that as well.

  9. A request for contact information. End the termination letter with a request that the employee keeps their contact information updated with the company so that you can mail them any additional information, forms, or documents.

Categories of Termination Letters

There are many reasons companies decide to terminate employees, and each reason needs a different type of termination letter.

  • Furlough or layoff. Companies that need to let employees go for economic reasons may need to furlough or lay them off. If you need to write a letter to your employee about this, be sure to include all of the information above, especially information about severance packages or salaries they will still be receiving.

    You should also consider including a note of thanks or explaining that their performance isn’t the cause of the termination.

  • Termination of business contract. If you’ve hired freelance or contract workers, there will likely come a time when you need to part ways. This letter should contain a note of thanks and any details about projects that are still due or invoices that the employee still needs to send.

    It’s imperative to avoid burning bridges in this situation since you may want to hire them again in the future.

  • With cause. When you fire someone for cause, it’s vital that you talk with your lawyers about what you should include in the letter.

    This is for your company’s benefit, as the letter will go into the organization’s permanent records in case of a termination lawsuit down the road.

    Here are three common reasons you might fire an employee for cause:

    1. They are performing unsatisfactorily. If you’re firing your employee because they’re performing poorly, it can be difficult to fully describe how they aren’t meeting standards. Talk to your lawyers about what you need to say, and add as many details as possible to the termination letter.

    2. They had a poor attendance record. If you need to let an employee go because of poor attendance, it’s essential that you lay out why their attendance was poor, how you helped them correct it, and any steps you took to make sure the absences weren’t legitimate.

    3. They couldn’t adapt to change. Another common reason for needing to let someone go is that they couldn’t adapt to changes within the company or in their position’s duties. This is another case when it’s vital to outline the steps you took to train and support the employee in being able to adapt and why they still weren’t performing to satisfactory levels.

3 Termination Letter Samples

Layoff Termination Letter

Cindy Martin
Sales Manager
Ambrosia Industries
88888 W Riverside Drive
Boston, MA 33333

October 15, 2020

Mr. Joe Williams
1234 Main Street
Boston, MA 33333

Dear Joe,

This letter confirms our discussion earlier today that you will be laid off from your position as Sales Consultant at Ambrosia Industries effective November 1, 2020.

Due to a drastic decrease in client orders over the past few months, Ambrosia Industries has experienced financial difficulties.

After pursuing many options to no avail, including expanding our services and increasing our marketing efforts in order to court new clients, we have decided that our only course of action is to eliminate approximately 50 positions, and, regrettably, your position is one of these that will be eliminated.

You will receive eight weeks of severance pay at your normal salary, one week for each year you worked at the company. Your current health insurance coverage will remain the same during this time as well.

You will also be receiving an additional check for any remaining PTO days you have. This will be mailed to you with your final paycheck, or you can pick it up in the finance office on October 31, 2020. Please advise the bursar which option you would prefer by October 20, 2020.

Our HR department will be mailing you an additional letter that outlines your current benefits and your eligibility for COBRA health coverage.

Before you leave, you will need to turn in your ID badge, company laptop, and company cell phone.

Please continue to provide us with your updated contact information so that we can provide you with important information and forms in the future.

We deeply appreciate the dedication and excellent work you’ve given to Ambrosia Industries. If you wish for us to speak on your behalf to any future employers, or if there is anything else we can do to assist with your transition, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Cindy Martin (signed name)

Cindy Martin

Poor Attendance Termination Letter

Will Payne
Nile Enterprises
1001 E Broadway Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 33333

November 1, 2020

Susie Johnson
2222 W 33 Drive
Indianapolis, IN 33333

Dear Susie,

This letter is to confirm the discussion we had at our meeting today. Your employment at Nile Enterprises is terminated, effective immediately, due to poor attendance.

As we talked about earlier, your attendance violates company policies, resulting in the termination of your employment. Your continued tardiness affected everyone on your team and the company as a whole, as it required your team to make up for your absence, setting them back in their work, which in turn caused the company to lose clients.

Your supervisor has given you three written warnings, which you signed and are in your personnel file. He also explained the consequences of your actions and offered to help you create a plan of action to improve your timeliness, which you refused. He also asked if you needed to make any adjustments to your schedule, and you said you did not.

After that, you were given a week without pay in accordance with our company discipline procedures and offered a longer unpaid leave of absence, which you also turned down.

You will be receiving your final paycheck on your regular payday, which will also include payment for any accrued sick days and vacation days. You will also be receiving a letter detailing the status of your benefits and information about future coverage opportunities through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

You have turned in your company key, badge, and laptop at the termination meeting.

Please keep the company HR department updated with your current contact information so that we can send you any future information, such as your W-2 form.

If you have any questions or if there is anything we can do to help you during this transition, please contact me at 555-666-7777 or willpayne@email.com.

Regards,

Will Payne (signed name)

Will Payne

For Cause Termination Letter

Karen Thompson
Principal
Washington Academy
1515 E 70 Drive
Tulsa, OK 77777

September 15, 2020

Frank Smith
4444 W King Blvd.
Tulsa, OK 77777

Dear Frank,

This letter is to confirm the conversation we had during our meeting today. Your employment at Washington Academy is terminated for cause, effective immediately.

Your employment is terminated due to your use of school property for personal use after being reprimanded and reminded of this policy by me, the school principal, on two separate occasions.

Your continued use of your school-owned computer, classroom materials, and books for personal tutoring sessions with students who aren’t enrolled at Washington Academy was a gross violation of school policy.

Your final paycheck and payment for any remaining sick days or PTO will be sent to you on your regular payday via direct deposit. If you would like to pick it up or have it mailed to you instead, please contact the school bursar by September 26, 2020.

You will also be receiving a letter describing the current state of your benefits and your eligibility for COBRA health coverage.

We received your ID badge and your school-owned laptop at the meeting.

Please continue to provide us with your updated contact information so that we can send you additional forms and information.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do to assist you with your transition.

Regards,

Karen Thompson (signed name)

Karen Thompson

Final Thoughts on Termination Letters

  1. Be respectful and direct. No matter why you need to terminate an employee, it’s important that you do so respectfully and kindly. Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t be overly friendly, but being courteous can help the process go much more smoothly.

  2. Talk to your lawyers. Termination letters are important to get right, so be sure you involve your HR department and lawyers in the process whenever you can. Follow their advice because it may save your company a lawsuit down the road.

  3. Deliver the letter at the meeting or send it immediately afterward. A termination letter shouldn’t be the first time an employee hears that they don’t have a job anymore. Instead, it should be a confirmation and written record of the details you covered in a meeting in person.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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