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Labor: 9 tips for conducting exit interviews

How to get the most out of your final discussion with a departing employee

Exit interviews are useful regardless of the reason for an employee’s departure from an employer. Since exit interviews are generally the last opportunity the employer has to speak with the employee, it serves as a great mechanism to discuss the reasons for the employee’s departure, as well as an opportunity to reinforce any expectations that the company may have regarding post-employment conduct of the employee.

At its most basic level, an employer should take all necessary measures to ensure that the exit interview is conducted in a fair manner and with the goal of obtaining as much information as possible about the employee’s reasons for leaving. For example, the individual conducting the exit interview should maintain his or her objectivity and avoid any heated arguments over the circumstances of the employee’s departure. If the employer thinks that the employee may become violent, it would be prudent to have security readily accessible or present.

In addition to the foregoing, the following are some general topics that an employer should regularly cover with the departing employee during the exit interview:

1. To the extent there are any restrictive covenants, it is imperative that the employer reinforce and highlight the departing employee’s post-employment obligations.

2. Ask questions of the departing employee about not only the reasons they are leaving (in the case of a resignation), but also their observations about what is good and/or bad about the company. This can be helpful information in making the company a better place to work for its remaining and future employees.

3. As a general matter, all work done by the employee is for the benefit of the employer. As such, an employer should instruct the departing employee not to take any company property when he or she leaves.

4. Depending on the nature of the  job, there may be employer property in the employee’s home or car. Therefore, the employer should instruct the departing employee to check his or her home or property for any company property and to return the property immediately. A record also should be kept as to what was returned by the employee.

5. The departing employee should be directed not to copy or duplicate any client lists or other company property on their computer or Rolodex.

6. Employers should reinforce the rule that employees are to dedicate all their efforts to the employer while they are still employed (i.e., they cannot be calling on customers for their new employer).

7. The employee should be directed to communicate all customer calls, leads and business opportunities to the employer while they are working for the employer. It is advisable to require the departing employee to prepare memoranda of the status of all projects and/or business opportunities of which they are aware or became aware of prior to their departure.

8. The employee should be told not to delete or remove anything from any computer without the prior written approval of their supervisor. Even though most deleted computer data can be recovered by computer forensic examiners, it can be costly to retrieve the deleted information.

9. Keep in mind that the employee usually must be paid any earned wages or compensation promptly after his or her termination. Many times, this can be done (and documented) at the exit interview. Otherwise, inform the departing employee that their final paycheck and any earned vacation or other benefits will be sent to them at the next regularly-scheduled payroll date.

Partner

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Jason Tremblay

E. Jason Tremblay is a partner in the labor & employment practice at Arnstein & Lehr LLP. He represents a diverse client base...

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