The term “probationary period” is frequently referred to when owners and managers are hiring an employee or when they are “thinking” about terminating an employee. Most management-level employees believe that as long as they terminate the employee within their “probationary period” which is usually 30, 60 or 90 days from the employee’s date of hire, that they may do so without any legal actions on behalf of the employee due to state employment-at-will laws. However, this is really no longer the case. Employers who hire employees should follow a progressive disciplinary action process for involuntarily terminating an employee no matter if that employee has worked for the organization for one day, 90 days or longer. Having the proper documentation increases the employer’s odds of winning unemployment claims and other legal employment-related actions filed on behalf of the departing employee.
New Focus HR highly recommends that companies that currently have a “probationary period” rename it to an “introductory period.” “Introductory periods” should be used from a benefits and performance evaluation perspective only to assist with determining when an employee is eligible for paid time off (vacation, sick, personal days), healthcare insurance and other related benefits, retirement savings plans, performance evaluations, etc. Employers may no longer be protected with regards to paying out unemployment benefits for the departing employee and/or other employment-related laws based upon the number of days in an “introductory period.” Make sure that documentation related to progressive disciplinary action is accurate, consistent and up-to-date during the “introductory period” just as you would after the “introductory period” in order to hopefully avoid any adverse employment-related actions.
For additional information on this topic, please contact New Focus HR.
Written By: Kristen Shingleton, M.B.A., CCP
President, New Focus HR LLC