Strategic Suspension

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

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A business owner from Iowa called me the other to talk about general human resources issues during which time the conversation evolved to employee termination. Well-schooled in performance management (e.g., coaching, documentation, and discipline), the mature business owner had a comfortable grasp on conventional techniques, nuances, and procedures related to that most delicate process of “promoting an employee to the position of customer.”

Toward the end of our discussion, I relayed some recent information I had gleaned from professional readings, workshop attendance, and arcane conversations with legal scholars which enlightened me to a more strategic use of an employee being suspended from work.

Traditionally, employee suspension has been used extensively as the penultimate disciplinary method intended to convey the close proximity an employee was approaching termination.

The use of employee suspension is now being used more frequently as an administrative precursor to termination, representing an interim time period between the employee’s last day of work and his/her last day of employment.

Given the fulsome risks associated with impromptu employee terminations (e.g., heated emotions, lack of prepared scripting, potential for wrongful termination lawsuits, bureaucratic details associated with delivering final paychecks), it is now advantageous for the company to NOT terminate the employee on the spot for any reason (e.g., poor job performance, policy violation).

Instead of immediate dismissal, it is now recommended that the company inform the employee that s/he will be suspended with/out pay pending the results of an investigation into his/her substandard job performance or policy violation. Contemporaneously, the employee is asked to return all company-related resources (e.g., cell phone, files, laptop, keys, vehicle) in that their use is not permitted by any employee while suspended from work.

The adroitly-positioned suspension affords the company with several days of invaluable time to calmly and methodically review relevant details related to the employee’s terminatable offense, verify suitable documentation capable of refuting potential legal challenge, calculating final remuneration (e.g., compensation, reimbursements, PTO/vacation payouts, bonuses), and discussing any latent topic (e.g., harassment, retaliation, bias, discrimination) that may impede a lawful, efficient, and fair decision.

Once all the administrative T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, the company then sends the termination paperwork (e.g., Employee Termination Form, final compensation, COBRA rights and responsibilities, unemployment pamphlet, personal belongings) to the employee’s last known home address via Certified Mail through the U.S. Postal Service with a Return-Receipt-Requested.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.