What is a Dismissal Letter?

Felicia Dye

A dismissal letter is a document that an employee receives from her employer. It informs the employee that she is being terminated and should state the reasons why. It may include information about previous incidents that contributed to this decision. If there is an opportunity for the employee to appeal her termination, this should be communicated.

A dismissal letter informs an employee that s/he is being fired.
A dismissal letter informs an employee that s/he is being fired.

Employers commonly issue a dismissal letter as a formality to help limit claims that an employee was unfairly terminated. To be effective in this role, a well-written dismissal letter usually goes beyond informing a person that her term of employment is over. It should also communicate other important pieces of information.

An employee may be given the option to appeal his or her dismissal.
An employee may be given the option to appeal his or her dismissal.

The dismissal letter should promptly and specifically inform a person of the reason that her employment is being terminated. If a person is being fired for smoking outside of the designated area, there should be no doubt that this is the reason. In addition to the employee's action, many writers will state the policy that has been violated and will inform the recipient where she can review this policy if she chooses. For example, the dismissal letter may say, “This decision was made in accordance with the company's tardy policy, which you can review on page 11 of the employee handbook.”

When this document can be issued by an employer is usually determined by a company's discipline policy, so it can vary from one business to another. An employee will generally receive a dismissal letter only after other disciplinary measures have already been employed. There may be instances, however, when a person's actions warrant immediate dismissal.

If other actions have been taken, it is common for these to be listed in detail. Within the body of the dismissal letter, the writer will likely state the date and the type of discipline that was employed. The causes that prompted these actions are also likely to be specifically listed. If the employee made promises, agreements, or acknowledged that her job was in danger if she acted a certain way in the future, she is likely to be reminded of this.

In some cases, the termination communicated in a dismissal letter is not absolute and final. There may be an opportunity for the recipient to appeal. If so, the manner and time frame in which this is to be done should be communicated. For the sake of professionalism and to avoid the document being mistaken as a prank, it is best if it is printed with a company's letterhead and contains the name and position of the person who wrote it.

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