Celebrating 20 Years in Business • 2004 - 2024

How to Fire Employees Legally and Compassionately

Firing employees is always hard. Perhaps that is why Google fired 12,000 employees via email one night, immediately locking them out of company devices. Most employers do not fire employees that way.

Most of the time, employers make the difficult decision to let someone go on an individual basis. For most, it is a wrenching experience that, first, requires preparation and, second, must be done in a way that protects both the organization and the person doing the termination interview. To achieve these two objectives, companies need guidelines that must be followed before letting an employee go. These guidelines should include the following:


Keep in mind that even though most states follow some version of “at-will” employment laws, which does not mean someone can be fired at any time for any — or no — reason,  it is not absolute. There are many exceptions to at-will laws, such as retaliatory or discriminatory action and breach of contract.

The reason for termination must be, one, legally acceptable under federal, state and local laws, and two, true and verifiable. Under federal law, it is illegal to fire anyone based on any status protected by equal employment opportunity laws, such as age, religion, disability, sexual orientation and gender (including gender identity and gender expression).

Reasons such as poor performance or unexplained absences generally are acceptable. It is also acceptable to fire someone if they have committed illegal or criminal activities.

Company Policies

Every company handbook should contain the company’s firing policies. This means detailing the reasons disciplinary measures will be taken, outlining the steps in the process and stating what actions will result in termination.

The handbook should also provide guidelines for probationary periods. In general, most states permit employers to fire probationary employees during the probationary period.

Employers need a plan that reinforces the company’s hiring policies. Guidelines for this process include:

  • Investigating the event. Sometimes the event resulting in a termination needs no further investigation; for example, if constant lateness can be substantiated by timeclock records. However, if the event is more complicated, such as allegations of discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation or threats of violence, the employer must gather supporting evidence, such as interviews with others who witnessed the event. It is important to be prepared in the event the employee files a lawsuit against the company after they are terminated. Note that an employee who discriminates against, sexually harasses, or threatens violence against another employee may be fired immediately.
  • Documenting violations. Employers should document infractions in writing, sign it and have the employee acknowledge they have seen the documentation. The signed document should be stored in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Creating a performance improvement plan. Create a performance improvement plan that gives the employee the opportunity to rectify their errors. Discuss this plan with the employee and have them sign off on it.
  • Recordkeeping. Store any documentation relating to the person in their personnel file so the company can support any claims arising from a lawsuit or denial of a claim for unemployment benefits. (Note that depending on state law, unemployment insurance may be denied for reasons of misconduct.)

Firing interview

Firing an employee is stressful. It is a best practice to have another person present during the meeting, preferably someone from HR. In addition, be sure to do the following:

  • Keep the meeting short and factual.
  • Give the terminated employee all relevant information about, one, their benefits, including COBRA, severance package, etc., and two, leaving the building, returning company-owned items, etc.
  • Be respectful of what the employee has to say.


Layoffs are different from individually firing an employee, but they too need to be planned. Even when layoffs are necessary, no company wants the process to be perceived as negatively as Google’s was.

It is important to get professional advice to be sure you are complying with federal, state and local laws.


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Emily Gooding

Payroll Specialist

Emily is graduating in May with a BA in Business Administration from Lander University. She has gained valuable experience as a payroll intern for BMW. We are so excited to have her on the team and  to see her excel in her role as a Payroll Specialist.

Madison Capps​

Payroll Specialist

Madison received a BS in Psychology from Southern Illinois University in 2019. Since then, she has been working as a supervisor at Starbucks and earning her second degree, a BA in Administration and Accounting, from USC Aiken in the fall. She will be joining us as a Payroll Specialist and a valuable addition to our Paysmart team.

Kristen Wilby

Payroll Specialist

Before moving to South Carolina with her husband, Kristen worked as a Sales & Marketing Specialist for Premium King in Feasterville, PA, where she gained valuable experience in strengthening the brand and generating new business. Kristen also brings to our team several years of professional experience as an Executive Assistant and as an Office Manager, where she was first introduced to payroll. Kristen’s knowledge and her innate ability to establish genuine relationships contribute greatly to the team as we continue to grow and serve our clients.

Meg Whitaker

Payroll Specialist

Meg brings nearly twenty years of professional experience to the team. Most recently, she worked as a Payroll & Benefits Specialist in Centennial, Colorado. She and her husband recently moved back to the Carolinas for his job, and we were fortunate to find her! Before Colorado, Meg worked at CPI Security Systems in Charlotte, NC, for twelve years as a Billing Coordinator and Senior Administrative Assistant. She also gained three years of experience as an HR Assistant for a law firm in Fayetteville, NC. Her expertise significantly adds to our team and benefits our clients as we continue to grow!

Rachel McClaran, EA


Rachel plays a crucial role in developing Paysmart’s core processes and procedures, as well as overall strategy within the company. Rachel graduated from Bob Jones University and is an active member of the Junior League of Greenville and the South Carolina Association of CPAs. Her desire to serve her community has led her to become involved with several nonprofit organizations and to serve as the past Vice President of Finance for the Junior League of Greenville. Outside of the office,Rachel enjoys spending time on the water and traveling with her husband and their two children.

Hina Rogers

Payroll Specialist

Hina joined the Paysmart team in August 2022. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Greenville, SC. She earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education. After college, she represented her alma mater as an enrollment counselor in the Southeast and Western states. She enjoys traveling, road trips, cooking, and quality time with her family. Hina looks forward to serving your company’s needs! 

Sharon Quantrille

Payroll Specialist

Sharon has spent several years in the accounting industry and has completed courses to hone her skills as a Payroll Specialist. Her background as an educator, professional musician, and Human Resources Generalist has contributed to her communication skills, commitment to professionalism, and organizational skills that make her a tremendous benefit to her Paysmart clients and colleagues. A graduate of Bob Jones University with a B.S. degree in Music Education, a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance and a Human Resources Generalist Certificate, Sharon spends her free time gardening, hiking, playing the piano, and spending time with her four adult children.

Haleigh Bates

Payroll Specialist

Haleigh joined our team in May of 2022 as a payroll specialist. Haleigh has over eight years of experience helping personal and small business clients with their financial needs. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Georgia Southern University. She enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children, Caden, Addie, and Mason.  She likes to go hiking, spend time at the beach, and volunteer at her church in the children’s ministry. 

Courtney Rossello

Payroll Tax Manager

Courtney joined the team at Paysmart Payroll Services in September 2020.  She was raised in Simpsonville, SC, and graduated from Clemson University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a concentration in public administration.  Courtney began her payroll career in 2011 and currently works in the payroll tax department at Paysmart.  She strives to make every client feel comfortable knowing their payroll taxes and tax returns are handled accurately and efficiently.  Courtney is also a volunteer Treasurer for a local middle school in Greenville County.  In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with special needs children, road trips, and spending time with her two daughters. 

Emily Hargrave

Senior Payroll Specialist

Emily received her bachelor’s degree in music from West Coast Baptist College. Since her college days, Emily has gained nearly 18 years of experience in office operations and project management. Emily joined Paysmart in 2017 and enjoys using her skills to support clients and the Paysmart team.

 At heart, Emily is a small-town country girl from the Midwest but is happy now to call the Upstate home, where she doesn’t have to endure harsh winters. Emily’s favorite ways to spend her free time are reading a good book, challenging herself with puzzles, and doing her best not to kill the plants in her garden.

Julie Shull

Client Success Specialist

Julie is the Client Success Specialist for Paysmart Payroll.  She joined the team as a Payroll Specialist in March of 2020. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from NC State University and earned an MBA from Gardner-Webb University while playing on the GWU women’s tennis team. After starting her career with Wilson Sporting Goods as a Financial Analyst, she took a few years off to raise twin boys until she began working for Greenville County Schools in 2014.  Julie enjoys spending time with her family and outdoor activities.

Brad Detandt

Payroll Administrator

A graduate of Northland International University with a BA in Counseling, Brad Detandt leads the day-to-day operations of the Paysmart team. He is eager to grow the firm’s client portfolio. He brings a diverse employment background in retail, manufacturing, nonprofit ministries, and business development, with
a specialized focus on team development and process improvement. Brad’s professional – and personal – mission is to “Be Great. Serve!” Brad enjoys spontaneous activities and weekend trips to state parks with his wife Miranda and his three children.

Stephen C. Stokes

Managing Partner

Stephen has more than 14 years’ experience working with individuals and businesses to meet their tax, accounting, and payroll needs. He has been the managing partner of Paysmart Payroll Services since January 2009. He is a licensed certified public accountant in South Carolina and Georgia. Stephen is also a member of the South Carolina Association of CPAs, the Georgia Society of CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs, and the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. Stephen was born and raised near Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Greenville, South Carolina, several years ago. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Tiffani, and daughters, Madeline and Julianna. He is actively involved in his church and enjoys reading, sports, and other outdoor activities.