Releasing an employee from his or her job is a very difficult task. We WANT our employees to succeed. We don't want to be short staffed. We don't want to expose ourselves to lawsuits, Internet hate sites, or bad press because we let someone go. We can spend a lot of time and effort avoiding the task, correcting the employee, and following around after them to fix the areas that need fixed, all to avoid the problems that come with firing them. It's a lot of work and it can be quite emotional for the person being fired and the person doing the firing.
But the reality is that it needs to be done sometimes, for a number of reasons.
There are easy reasons to fire someone and there are hard reasons to fire someone. The easy reasons to fire someone include such things as theft, lying to the customer, harassment of customers or employees, sexual misconduct, etc. There are harder reasons to fire someone, including an inability to get the job done.
These "easy reasons" can actually be very dangerous for us because they are often discovered and in the heat of the moment we shout "you're fired" to the person. The danger is in making sure that all of the details are in place. Do we have the right person? Have we heard the entire story? Are the facts accurate?
The "hard reasons" to fire someone - call it an inability to do the job - can result from anything from showing up late constantly or missing shifts to mishandling cash or continuously (but accidentally) destroying merchandise.
In both cases, documentation is the key to successfully navigating this situation.
In the case where there is theft, harassment, etc., you want to make sure that your judgments are accurate, that you are accusing the right person, and that your solution of firing them will solve the situation. Local law will help you in the case of sexual harassment where specific steps may be laid out by your state's labor board to deal with those cases. Not having correct documentation could lead to lawsuits.
In the case where the employee is simply not able to perform the job to expectation, you need highly detailed documentation, too. In order to avoid lawsuits about wrongful dismissal, you will want to make sure that you did everything in your power to correct the behavior (including regularly bringing the situation to the attention of the employee, employee reviews, increased training, altered processes, new equipment, etc.)
Once you are sure that you have adequate documentation and that firing the person is the best option, take a deep breath, this is where it can get hard. Keep the big picture in mind and remember that you want to keep your customers happy, your employees happy, and profits coming in and by ignoring this problem or mopping it up all the time, you are risking those other three factors.
Next, decide if the employee is going to be a problem or not when they get fired. Will they become violent? Will they need to be escorted off the premises? Will they, if given the opportunity, steal company secrets on the way out the door? If the answer to any of these is yes, consider contacting your lawyer immediately and also consider hiring a security guard for the short time it takes to fire the person. The money you spend there will be worth it. If customers are in the store, you may even consider asking the person to stay after for a meeting, but make sure someone else is nearby so that they can't falsely accuse you of something.
Prepare your documentation and have it ready. Call the person into your office and speak calmly and plainly to them. Don't be defensive or aggressive. Simply say, "Unfortunately, because of [whatever the reason], we are no longer able to employ you." If the employee gets defensive, you'll have the paperwork right there.
Most importantly, be sure to check with local laws regarding dismissal to make sure that you are complying with your state's regulations.