1. This is hard for me, too. – While usually true, it’s important to recognize that the person doing the firing has it better than the person getting fired. In litigation, the statement will be used to make you sound self-centered and insensitive.
  2. This is a decision by the company that I don’t necessarily agree with. – If you disagree with the termination decision, you do what you can to persuade the decision maker that it’s a mistake. Once the decision is made though, it’s your job to represent your employer.
  3. We’ll send you your final pay in a few days. – Not in California you won’t. Labor Code § 201: “If an employer discharges an employee, the wages earned and unpaid at the time of discharge are due and payable immediately.” So you will have a final paycheck, including unused vacation, ready to hand the person on the day you terminate.
  4. I should have probably pointed this out sooner . . . . – If someone is terminated for poor performance, they should have been clearly informed (including in writing – hopefully in a written performance review) of how they were deficient and needed to improve. Regardless of the legal theory at issue, juries, judges, and arbitrators are looking for fairness. This means the person was told what was wrong and given a reasonable chance to correct the issue.
  5. Your complaint to [insert government agency] forces us to question your loyalty to the company. – You might as well just list “retaliation” as the reason for termination.
  6. You violated our company policies when you told your co-workers what you were making. – This may be a problem anywhere according to the NLRB. But in addition, Labor Code § 232 specifically prohibits employers from taking any action against an employee who discloses his or her wages.
  7. We’re getting rid of the deadwood./We need some new blood./We’re looking for someone with a fresh perspective./There’s too much gray hair around here./We’re trying to update our image. – I suppose these statements are slightly better than: “You’re too old.” But only slightly.
  8. I don’t have to give you a reason. – Technically, that’s true. But as I explained here, you don’t want the person using his or her imagination to figure out the reason. Just make sure the reason you give is accurate and supportable.

Update – August 23, 2013: Our partner Christina Stoneburner at the Employment Discrimination Report added a ninth item to the list. You can read it here. Some people are so competitive!

Fired from job