Employers Can Limit Liability by Documenting the Progressive Discipline Process
Nov. 29, 2022
Progressive discipline is a well-documented and step-by-step process for dealing with employees whose job performance does not meet the expected and communicated standards of the organization. The primary goal of this process is to provide the employee with an opportunity to correct and improve their performance. It is also intended to get the employee's attention to understand that improvement is essential if they wish to remain employed. Progressive discipline is most effective when it assists an individual in becoming a successful organization member. Progressive discipline is an investment in the employee and a safeguard for the employer. However, when the employee fails the improvement process, progressive discipline will enable the organization to terminate the employee's employment reasonably.
Repeated Violations Prompt Disciplinary Progression
The discipline process progresses from one phase to the next when a repeated violation of the same rule occurs. Failure to meet performance standards is often the violation at issue. The employer must document the link between the offending events to move from one step to the next. Without an interrelationship between each event, the result will be a series of independent verbal warnings rather than a logical progression from the initial verbal warning to termination of employment.
The Steps of Progressive Discipline
Typical steps in a progressive discipline process include:
Step 1. Addressing the Issue - Coaching
Arrange a private meeting with the employee to discuss their sub-standard performance and attempt to discover why they are not performing at an optimal level.
Consider having an HR person or another manager attend the meeting so that a witness is present.
Attempt to solve the issue at this initial step.
Step 2: The Verbal Warning
If it is necessary for the supervisor to continue with the disciplinary process, they should verbally reprimand the employee for their subpar performance.
The employee should understand that the progressive discipline process will be well documented and that you hope the employee will improve their performance without additional warnings.
Step 3: The Written Warning
If the employee does not improve, they will receive a formal written warning.
Step 4: The Final Written Warning
If the employee does not improve, they will receive this final warning.
Explain in the final written warning that termination will result if the employer believes the employee has not taken steps to improve their performance.
Step 5: Termination of Employment
Termination will occur when the employee has made no effort to improve their performance and the employer has exhausted all options to assist the employee in meeting the organization's expectations.
The Process of Progressive Discipline is Effective Because:
It allows those in management to address the problematic behaviors of employees before they escalate.
It will enable employees to correct the issue and perform according to the organization's expectations.
It fosters better communication between employees and employers.
It sets a process for management to follow so that they do not invite subjective bias into the workplace by being more strict or lenient with specific individuals.
Progressive Discipline Policy in the Employee Handbook
Employers should apply disciplinary policies consistently to avoid claims of discrimination. Every organization should have a progressive discipline policy as a part of the employee handbook. All company policies, training, and procedures contained in the manual should be reviewed by management and the human resources department at least annually.
About Attorney Natalie Lynch
Natalie Lynch is the managing attorney of the Lynch Law Firm and a credentialed investigator and dispute resolution mediator with many years of experience working with businesses to help minimize employment risk factors. She is the only consulting and credentialed investigator in Central Texas who conducts third-party investigations into allegations of harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and other issues.
The Lynch Law Firm Team Will Navigate Your Legal Issue from Inception to Resolution
If you have a labor and employment law issue, our team of attorneys is equipped with the experience and expertise to help you find a resolution. In addition to working with clients on workplace investigations, the Lynch Law Firm can also assist you in developing the following:
o Employee Manuals
o Performance Evaluation Materials
o Employment Contracts
o Legal Agreements for Non-disclosure, non-compete, and Severance
Call the Lynch Law Firm Now for a Free Consultation
Call us at the Lynch Law Firm to schedule a free consultation. Together you can discuss progressive discipline and other problems in the workplace and how to avoid issues before they happen. You can contact the firm's founding member, Natalie Lynch, by calling her at 512 298-2346 or emailing her.