Broadcast Personnel Management
Doing the Firing (Continued)
The Dismissal Hearing
As covered previously, most broadcasting companies follow
a warning-probation-dismissal progression before an employee is
terminated. The practice is followed typically to give each employee
in violation of company policy or demonstrating below par job performance
an adequate opportunity to improve such performance.
Most dismissals today have to be carried out with specifics as to reason
for termination and recourses for termination pay settlements. Without
such, employees are often left with the option of carrying a protest to
a state or federal wage and hour board, or governing employment agencies.
Television and radio stations are particularly vulnerable because of
each being licensed by the government.
The following covers key steps in carrying out a dismissal hearing. While
companies may vary as to their requirements (some have human resources
managers and some do not), the blueprint is relatively the same
throughout the nation.
Reviewing the Investigation
If a decision is made to terminate an employee, the
steps covered in the previous section in Personnel III should be
carefully reviewed with either the human resources manager, or the
department head's immediate superior. Both managers should be in agreement
prior to the termination notice of proper reasoning for dismissal and
adequate warnings for the employee. The managers should be in concert
as to how the dismissal hearing will be conducted.
Secure a Witness
The manager conducting the firing should be certain to
have a witness present during a dismissal hearing. Such witness should
be careful to make any necessary written notes of any comments made
by the employee and/or supervisor during such hearing. In the case of
a company with a human resources manager, the human resources supervisor
will carry out such notations and will report any necessary information
to the general manager and to any responsible governing agencies (such
as an employment board, etc.). The witness should always be from the
management level of the company and never from the
employee's peer level. Preferably, the witness will come from outside
the department in question to provide objectivity.
None of the employee's peers should be notified of the
hearing in advance. Simultaneously, only the most essential management
personnel should be notified. This is as much as a protection for the
employee's dignity and rights as for the corporation's legal standing.
Stations, in the past, have been forced to pay larger termination pay
settlements if fired employees can prove the manager told station
personnel, other than essential managers, in advance of the action.
Keep Calm, In Control, and Brief
Termination hearings can be emotional, particularly
with an emotional employee. What is essential is for the manager administering
the firing to remain calm and under control. Termination sessions
potentially evaporate into shouting matches and arguments which explode
the situation into a volatile exchange. In worst-case scenarios, the
manager could be portrayed as emotionally unfit to retain objectivity
in the case---which could be damaging in a future legal case.
A termination session should be kept to a ten-minute time frame, unless
the employee persists in asking questions. Ultimately, the longer a
termination session extends, the greater the opportunity for emotional
reactions. Fifteen minutes into the hearing, at most, the employee
should be told all further communication will be conducted via mail.
The employee should be presented with the facts and be offered an
opportunity to resign. In many instances, the resignation is less
flagrant on an employee's work record when seeking future employment,
rather than a termination. From the management standpoint, a resignation
frees the company from the responsibility of paying unemployment benefits---though
an employee still may try to seek such as part of a forced resignation.
Timing of the Dismissal Hearing
Different management experts recommend varying approaches
as to when a dismissal should be administered. Some violations, to be
certain, are so flagrant dismissals must be carried out immediately.
However, a consensus of experts suggest conducting the dismissal at the
end of a standard work day. The reasons: 1) to prevent the employee
from having extensive telephone contact with other personnel in the
workplace during the course of a business day; and 2) to reduce the
potential embarrassment to the employee in the midst of a business
One other area of division is whether a dismissal should be handled on
a Friday, at the end of a work week----or conducted as necessary. Those
who disfavor a Friday suggest a disgruntled employee could use the
weekend to stir tensions within his or her department via telephone, or
in-person contact. Any manager must know most employees, unless they
have alienated a majority of their peers, will have their supporters.
Those who favor Friday believe fewer employees will be in the station
on a weekend, or in town, thereby reducing potential chaos. George Diab,
retired president of Clay Broadcasting Corp., has said: "When you have
to conduct a dismissal, as difficult as it may be, the best choice is
to get it over with as quickly as possible. The day of the week is not
going to have any bearing on whether an angry employee chooses to vent
his frustrations at the station. Waiting rarely solves anything."
Collecting Personal Items
A final, and significant, matter is the collection of all
station and personal items in the hands of the dismissed employee. The
employee should, on the spot, be required to turn in all keys to any
doors at the station. Quality stations will know what keys have been
issued to which employees and such items should be required to be turned
in immediately. If question marks exist as to which keys an employee
possesses and an uncertainty prevails as to whether the employee may
attempt a retaliatory action, the station should take steps to change
any necessary locks in the building.
As for the employee's personal items, depending on the situation, the
employee should be given a half-hour window at a time agreed to between
the supervisor and the employee, preferably outside of standard business
hours, to collect any and all personal items remaining on station
property. Any remaining items which would be later discovered could be
returned by mail. A station supervisor should be present at the time of
the collection to ensure the security of the building and to prevent
unnecessary and unhealthy exchanges between the employee and any other
present station personnel.
Conduct All Further Business By Mail
The remainder of any exchanges between the dismissed
employee and the station should be conducted via mail. E-mails and faxes are
not considered professional or acceptable exchanges at this point in time,
where a personnel matter is concerned. Should any type of legal
challenge be filed by the dismissed employee, the matter should be
turned over to both the station's human resources manager, if one exists, and
the corporate attorney---who should supervise any remaining followup
Statements to Staff and/or Public
Particularly if the employee dismissed is an on-air
personality or one well-known in management circles, questions will arise---
both from within staff and from the general public. Some members of the
news media may call the station to ask for confirmation and reasons for a
Most corporations have specific policies not to address personnel matters
in public. Full station staff meetings should never be called to
announce or discuss a dismissal. However, as a security measure (primarily to
protect a station against any potential legal reprisal), information of dismissals of
on-air or prominent station personnel should be transmitted to the
station's department heads with instructions to refer all calls in the
matter to the general manager, who will carry out corporate policy in
addressing or not addressing the matter.
"No comment" policies, at least in the early days after a dismissal,
potentially can create negative feedback from the public if a popular
personality is fired. However, an employee's privacy and a company's
responsibility to protect such is necessary from both a legal and ethical
standpoint. Station rank-and-file employees should be instructed
carefully, at the time they are hired, that should another station employee
be dismissed during the time of one's employment, that dismissal should
not be discussed publicly with the news media, or any other public
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