Business Management

Terminating a Nail Technician Is Never Easy

Discharging an associate, particularly one who has been with you for some time, will always be stressful for both you and her. Be certain to go about it methodically and with forethought.

From time to time it’s necessary for all nail salon owners to discharge someone. This is irrespective of whether this person is a salaried employee, a commissioned employee, or a booth renter. “Most poor performers phase themselves out,” says Kin Carey, owner of Pegasus Nail Designz in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Canada. “I’m grateful that firing someone does not happen too often.” When this person accepted a position within your salon both parties were optimistic. Still, you must always ask yourself the question, “Should this person have been hired in the first place? Does she have the qualifications and attitude to be a successful nail tech? Were the salon’s policies clearly laid out?” Melanie Martin of Nails by Mel, also in Lloydminster, says, “Some of the problems might be the salon’s fault, not the employee’s. Some could be quite correctable.”

Sometimes though, things just don’t work out as intended and there must be a parting of the ways. Some may go amicably, some will be fuming, while others threaten legal action for wrongful dismissal. No matter which, it always engenders intense emotions for all parties — the salon owner, the departing tech, and those who remain.

It’s easy to think that if ignored long enough, the problem will just disappear. This is wishful thinking. Usually it doesn’t and if anything, in most cases, it becomes exacerbated with time.



Because of the potential for litigation this situation can be more difficult. If not handled with discretion it could generate a costly-to-defend lawsuit. This could also apply to “constructive dismissal,” which is where by tolerating, what is for her, an oppressive working environment the associate was forced to leave. All the tech needs to do is to claim that she was willfully, maliciously, and unlawfully terminated and you are in court. Although innocent of any wrongful action the cost to defend yourself could be horrendous. And you will be bad-mouthed by the discharged person who will gain much sympathy from her friends and contacts. Steps taken before and during the exit procedure could significantly affect both salon owner and departing worker.



“For just cause” means the employer has a valid reason to fire this person. The reasons are numerous. They include such infractions as incompetency, theft, stealing, using drugs, drinking on the job, being belligerent to clients, being disruptive, bad-mouthing the salon owner, personality problems, ethical concerns, and otherwise breaking the terms of employment. Termination justifications can usually be subdivided into two groups: Group one includes actions that should result in immediate discharge and group two includes actions that may result in a warning, yet if uncorrected are followed by termination.



Today’s labor laws appear to be structured in favor of the employee. You only have to read the multitude of advertisements by law firms to see that none are for the benefit of the employers. However, this does not limit your right to discharge an employee or associate for a good reason, or for no specific reason at all, such as dissatisfaction or incompatibility. Just ensure that the discharge is not prejudicial or could not be classified as “wrongful dismissal.” This would include discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, age, nationality, or sexual orientation. You cannot fire someone who filed a discrimination claim, refused to commit an illegal act, or has a statutory right.

However, the law is not unfair. It provides the employer the opportunity to prove that the dismissal was not wrongful or prejudicial. It is imperative to methodically document the reasons and the steps you have taken in bringing about this action (see "Don’t Skip These Steps" below).



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