June 24, 2018

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When Should You Not Rehire An Employee?

It should be clear to everyone that employees make or break a business. My successes as a consultant have been directly related to building employee teams. In most businesses recruiting and keeping good employees determines the business' success. Almost all of my present and past clients have positions that require skill and experience. In the process of building a solid staff inevitably skilled employees threaten to quit or actually quit. It is these skilled employees we are examining here. The employees you fire for incompetence, bad work ethic, poor performance are not the focus here. You simply get rid of a bad employee and do not rehire them.

But skilled employees that deliver value, sometimes great value, are another issue. The correct business decision becomes more vague and difficult. Sometimes it is very appropriate to rehire an employee (for example, returning from school or from a job where they increased skills.) In the discussion that follows please remember that the topic is situational -- what you should do depends on the situation and circumstances you face. The focus here is on skilled employees that deliver value but also deliver problems. The following are some key points in considering how to approach this issue:

  1. If an employee quits, make certain you get a 'quit form'. Even if you don't have this form in your company's word processor you can get a handwritten statement. Make certain you get name, date and last day. Otherwise the employee can state they did not quit, had asked for a leave of absence, etc., and demand their old job back. You will likely get their old problems back too.

  2. Notice is not required by law unless it is stipulated in a contract. (Beware of employees that have a history of not giving notice.)

  3. After an employee leaves and you have taken care of paychecks, vacation pay, credit cards, pagers, etc., make an immediate determination if you want to rehire them again. Time often distorts perception so you will not want to make a knee-jerk decision when the time comes. Assume they will walk in the next day and want their old job back. Do not be caught off guard!

  4. If any person, including an ex-employee, wants to apply for a position with your company you cannot deny them that right. This is a constitutional right protected by every court in the land. Deny them the chance to apply and you will soon hear from their lawyer. Allowing them the chance to reapply and rehiring them are two very different things. Have an ex-employee fill out an application like anyone else. Tell them you will review the application. You must keep all applications on file for one year.

  5. Many skilled workers have 'attitudes' or in some way do not fit in with the rest of the team. You cannot deny employment solely based on attitude since attitude cannot be accurately defined. Be very careful of what you do and don't say. Assess the situation. If the value does not far outweigh the problems then do not reconsider them for rehire. Simply state that the application is on file for future consideration.

  6. Do not believe that people can make miraculous improvements. Maybe that happens in Hollywood or the tabloids but it seldom does in the real world. If a drunken ex-employee tells you they have been sober for 6 weeks congratulate but do not believe. Humans are very slow to change -- especially the big changes. A 'rotten apple' can poison a work environment.

  7. Consider a rehire if they might be appropriate part-time or on-call. This way the business can use their skills only when needed.

  8. Consider a conditional rehire. You can set the conditions. For example, you must be here every day at 8:00 or do not bother coming in. Get them to agree to the conditions. Just make certain other equal job classifications have the same requirements or the conditions can be construed as discrimination.

  9. Pay, benefits, etc should align with the policies in your personnel manual. You are not required to bridge benefits unless you manual requires it. In my personal view employees that jump ship for greener pastures should 're-earn' their benefits. This makes other employees think twice as well. If there are no consequences for leaving and returning it is your fault.

  10. Consult your attorney if you are not sure what to do. Remember that attorneys are very good at legalities and often not so good at management.

There are obviously no set rules for an employee rehire but by focussing on the issues you can help or at least not hurt your business. I have seen employees leave and come back with great success. I have also seen a problem employee leave, be rehired and ultimately cause more damage. If you ever use your good judgement and good decision-making skills use them here!

-Jack Deal
Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Consulting and The Deal Company. He can be reached at or