Not only does a progressive discipline model help correct your employees’ performance problems, but also helps protect you, the employer, from wrongful termination lawsuits. Having a discipline model will help ensure fair disciplinary action was taken when firing an employee due to inferior performance and that they were treated fairly according to your company’s policies.
Below are five steps to apply to your progressive discipline model:
- Oral reprimand – An oral reprimand should be issued as soon as a supervisor/manager views an employee’s performance or behavior as a problem. Action should also be taken to ask the employee whether there are any long-term problems or skill deficiencies that need help improving. Keep detailed notes about the conversation in case further action needs to be taken.
- Written warning – Should the problem continue, or if a new problem arises, then the employee needs to be issued a written warning explaining the objectionable behavior, the consequences, and the company standards which were used to come to this conclusion. Provide a time frame for which the performance needs to be improved and that a failure to comply will result in termination. Have the employee sign a copy to acknowledge receipt and place a copy of the written warning in their personnel file.
- Final written warning – A final written warning is necessary if performance or behavior does not improve, which could also include a probationary period for the employee. In the final warning also provide the previous warnings and just like the first written warning, indicate the areas that need improvement, a time frame for improvement and have them sign a copy for their records as well as yours.
- Termination review – At this point HR needs to be involved as the problem is persisting. Supervisors shouldn’t have final firing rights, so someone else of authority needs to evaluate the situation and handle the terminations.
Before taking final action, consider these questions:
– Does the employee claim a contractual relationship exists, and if so, does that assertion have merit?
– Has the employee recently filed a workers’ compensation claim, complained to a government agency about alleged workplace violations or taken any other actions that might make a discharge look like unlawful retaliation on your part?
– Is there an issue relating to a good-faith and fair dealing, especially if the termination involves a long-term employee?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then there’s no need to panic. You can still go through the firing process without challenge if you follow a strict discipline model to prove your actions were justified.
- Termination – This part is never easy, but knowing you gave the employee multiple chances to succeed should make your part a little easier and also gives the court full insight to the final decision should a lawsuit arise.
Final takeaway – document everything! You’re not only saving your tail, but hopefully helping your employee get on track before having to go to the extreme of termination.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.Crawford Advisors Blog, Disciplinary Action, Employee Performance Problems, Fair Disciplinary Action, Final Written Warning, Inferior Performance, Oral Reprimand, Progressive Discipline Model, Termination, Termination Review, Written Warning