Do I have to give my employee verbal and/or written warnings before I fire them, and do I have to explain why I am firing them?
There is no law that requires that you first warn an employee before you fire them, except with certain mass layoffs which do require 60-day notice to certain employees. That is not to say that not warning employees is a good practice. Some states may have related "mini-WARN" laws that could have differing notice and timing requirements.
But, if you have a union you almost certainly have some sort of grievance procedure in your collective bargaining agreement (contract) that details the steps you need to take to discipline, and eventually terminate, an employee.
In fact, the ideal practice is to provide some sort of warning to employees giving them the opportunity to improve upon their behavior, unless the circumstances warrant immediate termination like theft, workplace violence, or harassment.
With that being said, during the termination you do not have to initially tell the employee why they are being fired. In general, employers are free to say - or not say - as much or as little as they want to departing employees. Employees often ask for a reason in the termination meeting, but that by itself does not mean an employer needs to give them one.
But there are a lot of exceptions in employment law, this being one. In Minnesota, if within 15 business days of her involuntary termination, the employee requests in writing the reason for her termination, the company must provide her with the truthful reason(s) within 10 business days of receipt of her request.
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