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According to Oxford Dictionary Online,

separate

US Discharge or dismiss (someone) from service or employment.

terminate

chiefly North American End the employment of (someone); dismiss: Adamson’s putting pressure on me to terminate you

MORE EXAMPLE SENTENCES

The Plaintiff testified that she was shocked that she was terminated from her employment.

An at-will policy allows employers to terminate workers at the company's discretion.

When someone is terminated, sit down with each employee individually and tell them why that happened, Duffy says.

My question is, by analogy with Adamson's putting pressure on me to terminate you/to lay you off and I've just been notified through the mail that I've been terminated/laid off, is it acceptable to say, Adamson's putting pressure on me to separate you and I've just been notified through the mail that I've been separated?

  • So long as the reader is sure not to take the more immediate and apparent senses of physical dismemberment or divorce. Why take chances?! – Kris Feb 28 '16 at 12:49
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    All of these sound like euphemisms of HR types for what in Yankee vernacular is being fired, canned, given the boot, shown the door (and don't let it hit ya in the ass). terminate and dismiss are common in workplace policy manuals and formal communication, while discharge and separate are more usual in a military context. – Rob_Ster Feb 28 '16 at 12:53
  • You terminate a contract, or a (business) relationship, etc, not a person, as far as I am aware. The phrases 'terminate you' and 'terminate workers' seem rather..physical. – Terah Feb 28 '16 at 14:52
  • Separation in military context seems not as common (presumably due to it's limited applicability) as 'separate' in the context of personal relationships. – Terah Feb 28 '16 at 14:55
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    In my experience, at least, 'separate' implies that it was at least in part due to the employee's choice; terminate implies that it was involuntary. E.g. "He decided to accept a voluntary separation rather than wait to be formally terminated". – jamesqf Feb 28 '16 at 19:20
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The short answer is "No."

"Adamson's putting pressure on me to separate you."

and

"I've just been notified through the mail that I've been separated."

are not idiomatic in American English and would not be understood by most people, even though "terminate" and "separate" are sometimes synonymous.

Most American companies' human resources departments use various euphemisms, including the following:

"We are downsizing due to budget cuts, and we have to let you go."

or

"We are very sorry, but your services are no longer required."

Additionally, at-will termination of employment usually involves having the employee sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the separation, any reasons therefor, and any amount of severance pay offered as part of the termination.

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