Should You Rehire an Employee You Fired?

Decide whether to rehire a fired employee on a case-by-case basis

Fired employee leaving the office

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Many employers will not even consider rehiring an employee they've fired. The former employee might have been given every opportunity to improve or change, but it didn't happen. It seems logical to believe that she's therefore not suitable for the organization.

People usually don't change that much. The Internal Revenue Service learned this the hard way when it rehired more than 300 workers between 2010 and 2013, only to find that they had to fire many of them all over again. But there are exceptions to every rule.

Some companies have written policies for this type of situation. For example, rehiring a former employee might be acceptable if the employee wasn't terminated for cause, or if she's being rehired for a different position than she held in the past. In other cases, however, you might want to weigh the factors involved.

These are factors you may want to take into consideration as you weigh rehiring an employee you had fired.

Was Employee Going Through a Bad Time?

It's possible that the individual was going through a tough time in his life, perhaps a divorce. He might possess the ability to be a contributing employee if that problem is now resolved. It is particularly the case if he was terminated for some reason other than actual job performance. Maybe he did his job very well, but he was chronically late or absent due to his personal problem.

Has She Learned Anything Since Leaving?

It's also possible that a fired employee might have perfected her skills in another job or acquired additional or new skills since the time of her firing. She might even have achieved a college degree. You might consider taking her back if she's more skilled and knowledgeable now than she was when she worked for you, particularly if she was fired for poor job performance.

Is He the Best at What He Does?

Maybe the ex-employee simply has rare skills and experience that you can't easily replace. You might want to provide a second chance if you're having difficulty filling that position and you know the former employee can do the job. Review with him the factors that led to his termination, however, and make it clear that you expect different performance this time.

Changes in Staff

The problem that caused the employee's firing might have stemmed from a personality conflict. It's unreasonable to expect your entire workforce to be everyone else's biggest fans, and the picture changes a bit if the problem with your former employee was the result of her relationship with someone else.

Maybe she didn't get along with her supervisor, but that individual is no longer employed by you, either. The problem might not repeat itself if one of the components has been eliminated from the equation.

Be Prepared for the Reactions of Other Employees

You may experience anger and resentment from other employees, and they might even question management's judgment when a terminated employee suddenly reappears to punch that time clock again. It is particularly the case with employees who worked with the person before he was fired. Those who were affected by his past negative performance are unlikely to welcome him back with open arms.

Then again, he might have been the most popular guy in the lunchroom, and your other workers will be pleased. Again, you have to size the situation up on a case by case basis, but the reaction of your other employees might be worth considering.

Situational Decision Making

Look at each fired employee as an individual and make judgment calls based on the circumstances. But it can sometimes be just as important to base decisions on a policy that you consistently follow. This can help you avoid charges of discrimination and other legal issues.

You might want to consult with an employment law attorney if you don't yet have a written policy or if you plan to rewrite the one that you do have. Make sure you understand the ways in which rehiring a terminated employee can hurt you from a legal perspective. For example, you could run into compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act if you rehire someone you let go because of a drug or alcohol problem.

Be sure you understand the laws at both the federal and local levels and other considerations in your region.