Progressive Discipline

Progressive discipline helps employees understand and correct violations they have made. It also allows employers to take serious action when warranted. Following these steps helps ensure that discharge is fair and will stand up to legal scrutiny.

Progressive Discipline is Mutually Beneficial

  • A structured system can take some of the guesswork out of supervisor/employee relationships.
    • Employees know what penalties could come next.
    • Supervisors can be confident in disciplinary decisions.
  • There must be communication and collaboration, particularly in the early steps of the process.
    • Communication and collaboration allow focus on what will work best for the employee to improve.
    • Employees can participate in the problem-solving process, which increases engagement and likelihood of success.
  • Document all steps in writing.
  • Never promise that correcting a problem will save an employee’s job.

The first progressive discipline step is usually a verbal warning.

  • Talk privately with the employee right after the act calling for a warning.
  • Calmly explain the rule, the violation, and the possible results if the problem is repeated.
  • Listen with an open mind to the employee’s side.
  • Give a verbal warning.
  • Develop a plan for correction with the employee.
  • Write dated notes about the discussion.

The second step is usually a written warning.

  • Give written warnings only for the most serious or repeat violations.
  • Use the appropriate form or format for the written violation.
    • Consult with HR before issuing a written warning.
    • State the violated rule, when and where, as well as other facts.
  • Review the warning and its background privately with the employee.
    • Emphasize the seriousness of the situation.
  • Develop a correction plan with the employee and attach it to the warning.
  • Sign the form and have the employee do so; note if the employee refuses.
  • Place the form in the employee’s file.
  • Ensure that you monitor and document how the employee complies with the corrective action plan.

The third step is usually suspension without pay.

  • Take this step only as a last resort before discharge.
    • It gives you and the employee time to consider the next steps.
  • Confer with HR on the type and length of the suspension.
    • Three days is a typical time frame.
    • This may not be an appropriate step for salaried employees.
  • Meet with the employee, plus another supervisor or the HR representative.
  • Explain the problem, its seriousness, the suspension, and the next steps.
  • Sign and have the employee sign the necessary forms.
  • Meet with the employee after the suspension to plan corrective action.
  • Monitor and document how the employee follows the plan

The final step is usually employee discharge.

  • Take this step in consultation with HR for the most serious or repeated violations. Investigate charges carefully, even for the worst offenses.
    • Document the investigation and all prior related actions in writing.
  • Discharge the employee in a private meeting.
    • Detail the reasons for the discharge.
    • Have another supervisor or HR representative present.
    • Explain the proper procedures for ending employment.
    • Have all present sign a document on what took place in the meeting.

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