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Using technology to conduct virtual dismissals.

Hi, Nadia Zaman here with another employment law video update.

Today I’m going to talk about online dismissals, that is employers firing employees virtually. We have seen an increased use of technology to convey notice of termination, for example, emails or over Zoom, and so on, especially since the pandemic. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed dramatically in the context of the workplace, and norms have definitely shifted. Pre-COVID, people were extremely critical of any dismissal via video meetings or over phone calls, let alone via email or text message. Now, dismissing an employee via video meeting is acceptable in many contexts.

That said, employers should be cautious carrying out dismissals via video or other similar methods. The key is to ensure the dismissal is not carried out in a way that can embarrass the employee. In a way, dismissing via video meeting can make this easier since you can avoid the risk of others seeing the employee or knowing what happened. Of course, you have to make sure that you lock the Zoom or virtual meeting room so the employee’s coworkers cannot inadvertently join the meeting. Where employees are working remotely, employers will typically let go of employees virtually. Even where employees are working on a hybrid model, unless the employee has company property to return, employers will sometimes choose to let go via Zoom or similar technology.

However, where employees work at the office, typically employers will choose to dismiss them in person, although if the employee is away from the office already, for example, the employee is on a leave of absence, then the employer may decide to proceed with the termination virtually. The termination cannot be related to the leave of absence however, if that would be discriminatory. For example, if the employee is on a medical leave, and the dismissal is related, at least in part to the leave. Employers would be wise to avoid dismissal practices that can lead to additional damages, such as bad faith damages, for example if the employer humiliates the employee in public or in front of other employees in the course of dismissal, including technology fails, such as by neglecting to lock the Zoom room and inadvertently allowing individuals who shouldn’t be there to join in, then the employee may seek additional damages for the employer’s bad faith conduct in the manner of dismissal.

We help employers by ensuring that they maximize their rights and minimize their liability through strong contracts and proper termination documents. We also help employees by ensuring they get what they’re entitled to, for example, even if the employee has an employment contract that the employer tries to rely upon to limit the employee’s entitlements upon termination, the contract and/or the termination clause may be unenforceable and the employee may be entitled to substantially more than what the employer is offering. As we always say, if you think you need an employment lawyer, you probably do. So feel free to reach out to us and we would be happy to assist you. Thank you, that’s all for today.

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