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Ceridian’s HR nightmare: Does the process for handling terminations need a rethink?

4 stabbed during termination that raises a number of questions for human resources professionals

By Todd Humber

Shockwaves are still rippling through the human resources community in the wake of the stabbing of four workers — three of them apparently HR professionals — at a Ceridian office in Toronto last week.

The April 9 attack happened as the accused, 47-year-old Chuang Li, was being terminated from his job at Ceridian, according to Toronto police.

“He was being fired and I guess then he proceeded to get involved in stabbing some of his bosses and some other employees,” Det. Daniel Darnbrough said. Li is facing three counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of assault with a weapon.

Thankfully, it looks like all of the victims will recover, so that’s one thing we can be grateful for as we keep our colleagues and friends at Ceridian in our thoughts.

In the wake of this attack, the editorial team gathered here at Canadian HR Reporter to discuss how to cover this story. Two questions came immediately to mind for me:

Question 1: Does the process for handling terminations need a rethink?

Question 2: What are the warning signs employers should look for that an individual may become enraged or even violent during the termination meeting?

Liz Bernier, our news editor, is talking to experts to answer those two questions in a story we’re working on for the May 5 issue of Canadian HR Reporter. (One of the key questions surrounding this story — how to return to normal in the wake of a violent workplace incident — was tackled in the April 7 issue in a story we did on the aftermath of a double murder at a Loblaw grocery warehouse in Edmonton. You can read that story here.)

I’m not a fan of engaging in speculation, something you won’t find in our news coverage — but I’ll engage in a little bit of it in this blog. From what details we know to date, it appears as if the termination of Li was following a pretty standard HR script used by countless organizations and professionals.

The worker was separated from his co-workers and called into a meeting. The meeting may have even been held in the HR department, which puts it on neutral ground — always a good move in my books.

There were multiple people present, including HR professionals who are well versed in employee terminations and are more likely to “stick to the script,” so to speak — avoiding inflammatory language, pointing fingers and other antics that can stir tempers.

Of course, we don’t yet know what actually happened in that room — other than things went horribly wrong. Those details will likely come out at trial.

But what do you think? Is the tried-and-true recipe for terminations sufficient? Is the Ceridian incident a one off? Or does the HR profession need to rethink how terminations are handled so this type of event — no matter how rare — is less likely to be repeated?

We don’t have a lot of answers yet. Just a lot of questions and a disturbing reminder that, no matter how prepared you are or how strong a practice might be, that bad things sometimes happen and there is almost nothing you can do to completely eliminate the risk. 

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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  • Re: HR not necessarily neutral ground
    Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:39:00 AM by Todd Humber
    Andrew, you make a good point. HR is definitely not netural in many people's minds... the point I was trying to make is that they (apparently) separated him from his department to conduct the termination meeting. That's what I meant by neutral ground.