1 the act of firing weapons or artillery at an enemy; "hold your fire until you can see the whites of their eyes"; "they retreated in the face of withering enemy fire" [syn: fire]
4 the termination of someone's employment (leaving them free to depart) [syn: dismissal, dismission, discharge, liberation, release, sack, sacking]
- Swedish: bränsle
- present participle of fire
Firing refers to a decision made by an employer to terminate employment. Though such a decision can be made by an employer for a variety of reasons, it is most often viewed that a "fired" employee has been treated as such by the employer as a dishonor.
"Firing" is one of the most common colloquial term in the English language for this action. It is also often known as being "terminated" or "dismissed." Other common terms that are used in society include being sacked, bounced out, released, discharged, canned, axed, let go, relieved of duty, or being given a pink slip. The term "firing" is believed to have been around since 1885, and has been widely used in the English-speaking world throughout these times, though it was made especially popular in 1998 by Vince McMahon using the phrase in his character of Mr. McMahon and in 2004 by Donald Trump on the TV series The Apprentice, with the phrase "you're fired" being used in almost every episode.
To be fired, as opposed to quitting voluntarily (or being laid off) is generally thought of to be the employee's fault, and therefore is considered in most cases to be disgraceful and a sign of failure. Often, it may hinder the now job-seeker's chances of finding new employment, particularly if he/she has a history of being fired from previous jobs, if the reason for firing is for some serious infraction, or the employee did not hold the job very long. Job seekers will often not mention jobs that they were fired from on their resumes; accordingly, unexplained gaps in employment are often regarded as a red flag.
Many places, including most U.S. states, have adopted the at-will employment contract that allows the employer to dismiss employees without having to provide a justified reason for firing, although the variety of court cases that have come out of "at-will" dismissals have made such at-will contracts ambiguous. Often, an at-will termination is handled as a "layoff". Sometimes, an employee will be dismissed if an employer can find better employees than the incumbent, even if the fired employee has not technically broken any rules. This is common with probationary employees who were recently hired, but who cannot adjust to the environment of the workplace, or those who have been around for a long time, but can be replaced with a less experienced employee who can be paid a lower salary.
Some firings may not be so dishonorable after all. Some examples include conflict of interest, where the employee has done nothing wrong, but the presence of the employee on the employer's payroll may be harmful to the employer. This may be the case when a family member also becomes employed by the firm. In other cases, those who report wrongdoing in the workplace, known as whistleblowers, put their job at risk.
ReasonsThere are many reasons why an employer may fire an employee. While many view firing as the employee's failure, firing in some cases can be the result of the employer seeing a lack of value in the employee, or the ease in replacing the employee, whereas there is no fault to the employee. Firing can be the result of a series of incidents, that when put into a larger picture, make the employee look negative, or the result of a single incident that is considered so severe (known as gross misconduct), it is grounds for most serious action. In some cases, firing can be the result of a seemingly minor infraction, that following other violations, is viewed by the employer as the last straw.
Some of the more common reasons for firing include:
Attendance problemsAttendance that falls short of the employer's requirements is often a reason for being fired. These attendance problems may be:
Work performanceEven with good attendance at a job, an employee may be fired if his/her work performance does not meet the employer's standards. Some of these issues may be:
ConductPersonal conduct can be an issue that leads to firing, even if the employee successfully meets attendance requirements and performs his/her duties. Behaviorial issues may include:
Gross misconductIn the above examples, the termination is frequently part of a "progressive step" process, meaning the employee will have been warned and given an opportunity to improve before more severe measures are taken. However, immediate termination may occur for certain more serious offenses, often known as gross misconduct or zero tolerance offenses. These may result in immediate dismissal without any further warning:
- Damage caused to the employer through negligence
- Discovery of false information on the job application (such as resume fraud)
- Harassment of other employees, such as sexual or racial harassment
- Use of employer's equipment (e.g. vehicles and computers) to engage in non-work-related activity or other violations of employer policies, illegal activity, or to view pornography
- Testing positive for illegal drug usage, or failure to submit to a mandatory drug test
- Engaging in illegal activities on the job (such as embezzlement or illegal subordinate harassment), or cheating the employer out of wages
In some cases, an employee's off-the-job behavior could result in his losing his/her job. A common example is drunk driving, especially if the employee's principal responsibilities require driving. Often, an employee getting charged with a crime will affect the employer's ability to trust the employee.
Additional consequencesSome fired employees may face additional consequences besides their dismissal. This may occur when the reason for the termination is a violation of criminal law, or if serious damages are caused to the employer as a result of the employee's actions. Such ex-employees may face criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit, or a reporting to a database of those who have engaged in serious misconduct in such a position, so that the chances of ever obtaining a similar position with another employer are less likely. Some examples are a caregiver who engages in abuse, a bank teller who has stolen money from the cash drawer, or a member of law enforcement who has committed police brutality.
For the most serious violations of all, especially when the employer's security may be at risk from the employee in question, a guard or officer may escort a fired employee from the workplace to the parking lot upon his/her dismissal. Such actions are often taken by government offices or large corporations that contain sensitive materials, and where the risk exists that the terminated employee may remove some of these materials or otherwise steal trade secrets in order to retaliate against the employer or else use it to the advantage of a competing enterprise.
Problem employeesThough many employers would like to get rid of their "problem employees," some employers are reluctant to fire those who one would expect would be deserving of termination. There are many reasons for this, which may include:
- Difficulty in finding replacement: Some positions may be hard to fill. This may be the case with a rare skilled position, or with certain low-wage jobs that are generally unattractive, where finding applicants is difficult.
- Fear of retaliation: Sometimes the employer must be concerned
about various types of action the ex-employee make take against the
- Wrongful termination suit: The terminated employee may take legal action in response to the firing. While laws vary in each country and jurisdiction, many employers keep extensive documentation of disciplinary action, evaluations, attendance records, and correspondence from supervisors, co-workers and customers in order to defend themselves in the event of such a suit. Additionally, the at-will employment contract, where the law permits, allows the employer to dismiss employees without having to provide a reason, though this has sometimes been challenged in court.
- Negative report to public: The dismissed employee may tell negative things about the company to others, thereby hurting their business.
- Disclosure of trade secrets: An ex-employee may remove materials or divulge confidential information from the former employer and use it with another employer or in an independent business.
- Report to law enforcement: In the event that the employer's practices are not perfectly honest or within the confines of the law, there is the chance that a fired employee may report this.
- Violence: In some most extreme cases, fired employees have been known to erupt in violence against their former employers, sometimes known in slang as going postal.
- Unemployment Insurance costs: In the United States and some other countries, such benefits are financed by employers. A firm's unemployment costs increase with each worker laid off or fired.
- Relationship: The problem employee may have a special relationship with the boss, which is not necessarily romantic, but the employee may be a family member or close friend, or the employee may provide other needed connections for the employer
- Dependence on the employee: Despite the hardships the employee brings to the employee, the employer may find the employee useful in other ways. The employee may hold some rare knowledge or skill that is not easily replaceable.
- Sympathy: A sympathetic boss may feel bad about firing an employee
- Deception: The employee may have the employer fooled into believing s/he is doing a good job, even though others are unhappy with the employee
CounteractionsEmployers have several methods of countering some of these potential threats. A common method is forced resignation, and it allows the employee to resign as if by choice, thereby freeing the employer of the burden of a firing. Other methods used by employers include:
- Termination by mutual agreement: The employer and employee make a joint decision to end employment. Though it may be debatable if the termination was truly mutual, the employer offers the employee a "softened firing" in order to reduce backlash.
- Severance package: The employee is offered some extended pay or benefits and a glowing reference in exchange for departure. In turn, the ex-employee agrees not to sue, file for unemployment, or take any other action that would hurt the employer.
- Demotion: The employee is moved to a lower position, his/her hours or pay are cut, or the working environment is made increasingly unattractive in hopes of getting the employee to depart voluntarily. In some cases, the employee is officially kept as an employee, but offered little or no work.
- Change of role: The employer may modify the employee's duties so the employee does not feel dishonored by the changes, but no longer performs the duties with which s/he was struggling
Forced resignationsA forced resignation is when an employee is required to depart from his/her position due to some issue caused by his/her continued employment. A forced resignation may be due to the employer's wishes to dismiss the employee, but the employer may be offering a softened firing. Or else, in a high profile position, the employee may want to leave before the press learns more negative information about one's controversial nature.
To avoid this, and to allow the dismissed employee to "save face" in a more "graceful" exit, the employer will often ask the employee to resign "voluntarily" from his or her position. If the employee chooses not to resign, the processes necessary to fire him or her may be pursued, and the employee will usually be fired. The resignation thus makes it unclear whether the resignation was forced or voluntary, and this opaqueness may benefit both parties: for instance, the "fired" employee may not as easily be able to seek new employment in his/her given field.
Discriminatory and retaliatory terminationIn some cases, the firing of an employee is a discriminatory act. Although an employer may often claim the dismissal was for "just cause," these discriminatory acts are often because of the employee's physical or mental disability, or perhaps his/her age, race, gender, HIV status or sexual orientation. Other unjust firings may result from a workplace manager or supervisor wanting to retaliate against an employee. Often, this is because the worker reported wrongdoing (often, but not always sexual harassment or other misconduct) on the part of the supervisor. Such terminations are often illegal. Many successful lawsuits have resulted from discriminatory or retaliatory termination.
Discriminatory or retaliatory termination by a supervisor can take the form of administrative process. In this form the rules of the institution are used as the basis for termination. For example, if a place of employment has a rule that prohibits personal phone calls, receiving or making personal calls can be the grounds for termination even though it may be a common practice within the organization.
Changes of conditionsFirms that wish for an employee to exit of his or her own accord, but do not wish to pursue firing or forced resignation, may degrade the employee's working conditions, hoping that he or she will leave "voluntarily". The employee may be moved to a different geographical location, assigned to an undesirable shift, given too few hours if part time, demoted (or relegated to a menial task), or assigned to work in uncomfortable conditions. Other forms of manipulation may be used, such as being unfairly hostile to the employee, and punishing him or her for things that are deliberately overlooked with other employees.
Such tactics may amount to constructive dismissal, which is illegal in some jurisdictions.
Rehire following terminationDepending on the circumstances, one whose employment has been terminated may or may not be able be rehired by the same employer.
If the decision to terminate was the employee's, the willingness of the employer to rehire is often contingent upon the relationship the employee had with the employer, the amount of notice given by the employee prior to departure, and the needs of the employer. In some cases, when an employee departed on good terms, s/he may be given special priority by the employer when seeking rehire.
Surprisingly, an employee who was fired by an employer may in some cases be eligible for rehire by that same employer.
An employee may be terminated without prejudice, meaning the fired employee may be rehired readily for the same or a similar job in the future. This is usually true in the case of layoff.
Conversely, a person can be terminated with prejudice, meaning an employer will not rehire the former employee to a similar job in the future. This can be for many reasons: incompetence, misconduct (such as dishonesty or "zero tolerance" violations), insubordination or "attitude" (personality clashes with peers or bosses).
Termination forms ("pink slips") routinely include a set of check boxes where a supervisor can indicate "with prejudice" or "without prejudice."
During the Vietnam War, the CIA used this terminology with regard to its locally hired operatives. In the case of severe misconduct, it is alleged that the CIA would assassinate them or "terminate with extreme prejudice". This phrase entered popular culture - often shorn of its original context - through its use in the movie Apocalypse Now.
High-profile firingsHigh-profile firing refers to the termination of an employee who is in the public spotlight. In such cases, though terminology may be similar, the rules may differ from the typical firing.
For example, in professional sports, a coach's dismissal is generally referred to as a firing. However, though the employment will cease, the team may be required to pay the coach the remainder of his contract. A player on a team who faces the same action is generally not considered to be "fired," but rather "released" or "waived."
In many countries and smaller jurisdictions, the chief executive reserves the right to fire certain officials positions to which s/he appointed that person him/herself, and the termination will be effective immediately with no obligation for any further pay, though in some cases, a severence package may be paid. There are times when the President of the United States will ask his entire Cabinet to submit their resignations. He can accept some of them and file the rest away. This is often done by a new President who has inherited his predecessor's Cabinet, as a way to reorganize with reduced hard feelings.
High-profile individuals, when forced to resign from a job, will often claim that they resigned over "creative differences" or "to spend more time with their family". However, even these reasons can create rumors, especially when they are obviously false.
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