July 16, 2013 -- The wrong way to fire somebody has just gotten wrong-er: So found the staff of Barducci's Italian Bistro in Winter Park, Fla., says WFTV, when they were fired not in person, or by phone, but by text message.
Jodi Jackson, now an ex-employee of the restaurant, denounced owner Gregory Kennedy's method for delivering the bad news, telling ABC affiliate WFTV, "I think it's immoral. I think it's cowardice."
The text message she received July 4, she told the station, began, "Jodi, I unfortunately need to inform you that I have been forced to close Barducci's effective immediately."
Kennedy then went on to say that, despite his best efforts, "There were circumstances I was not able to address." He wished her "all the best." Any final payroll checks would be attended to, he wrote, "after the accounting has been finalized."
Efforts by ABC News to get comment from Jackson and from Kennedy were not successful. WFTV says it tried repeatedly to reach Kennedy by phone. Eventually they heard back from him—by email.
"Unfortunately businesses are forced to close across Orlando every day especially in the restaurant sector," he wrote. "I am working to resolve issues including final paychecks as quickly as possible."
ABC News sought other examples of employers firing employees by text message or email and found few.
In 2012, according to the New York Post, Jack Osbourne (son of Ozzie and Sharon) was fired via email by the producers of a pending reality TV series two days before he was to report for work on it (and after he had been diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis, he told US Magazine).
Also in 2012, the president of Alabama State University attempted to fire two of his top administrators by email, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. His attempt was unsuccessful, in part because the board ordered him placed on administrative leave, even as he sat at the boardroom table, working his iPhone and tablet furiously.
Reuters says software developer Jeff Langr was fired in 2012 by email and by Skype teleconference, following his employer's acquisition by another company. Langr told Reuters he found the choice of media "impersonal to the point of being cowardly."
HR professionals agree.
Deborah Keary, vice president of the Society for Human Resource Management, tells ABC News she finds such behavior on the part of an employer appalling. "The only reason I can think to do it," she says, meaning fire people all at once by text or email, "is to get the same news out at the same time. That way, you stop rumors from starting."
Asked if there might be right and a wrong way to fire some via email, she says: "I can't think of a right way, unless you followed up with a phone call to each of them to tell them how valued they are and how unfortunate it is the business can't survive; to tell them that you cared about them, and where they might look for another job."
Firing somebody, she says, is a highly personal transaction—not something to be done at arm's length.
She allows It's only natural for people—including senior managers—to want to avoid conflict. But to avoid it by using email or text is to show the other person disrespect. "Text should be used for telling your kids it's time for dinner; not to tell employees their livelihood is being taken away."
"You don't want to insult them," she says. "They'll complain. They'll get representation."