Ann Kiernan replies:
As a legal matter, no, in most states. However, there are a few, such as Minnesota, which give workers the right to get a written statement of the reasons for termination, by making a written request. (Minnesota Statutes 181.933). So, please check with a local employment lawyer.
As a humane matter, you do want to give the employee a truthful reason at the termination meeting. If the termination is due to performance issues, it shouldn’t be a surprise. If you’ve been managing within the law, you’ve given the employee plenty of warning, with detailed examples, and an opportunity to improve.
If the decision to terminate a person truly has nothing to do with personal performance, make that clear. Go out of your way in the termination interview to tell the employee what strong skills she has. During that meeting, the employee is usually in shock and angry. The termination interview, however, is one of the most re-played events in anyone’s life. Later, she will likely appreciate the fact that you reassured her.
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.