Tips For Successful Progressive Discipline
An example of progressive disciplinary process is:
Step one: Verbal Counseling – (Place documentation of counseling in the employee’s file, including the reason for counseling, the date and time of counseling, and who was present).
Step two: First Written Warning.
Step three: Second Written Warning accompanied by short suspension (usually one to three days).
Step four: Third written Warning with long suspension (usually at least one workweek). This may also be the Final Warning.
Step five: Termination.
Some serious infractions warrant skipping one or more steps and jumping to a higher level of discipline (very serious infractions such as fighting or theft may warrant termination as the first and only step). For very serious infractions, it may be appropriate to suspend an employee and contact the human resource department to review the incident. For example, it may be advisable to suspend employees involved in a physical altercation because the organization’s primary objective may be to remove the danger rather than to announce a termination and risk the escalation of a situation.
Progressive Discipline Warning Notices!
Written warning notices, necessary for the documentation of disciplinary action, should follow the following guidelines:
- They should be written on official forms. Avoid writing “memo to employee” warnings, which are less recognizable and which employees can deny having received.
- The specific date, time, and location of the infraction and the specific nature of the infraction should be detailed on the notice.
- Avoid using one warning notice for different infractions (unless they are related, such as patterns of absence or lateness).
- Check the employee’s history. Warning notices should be sequential (check to see if the employee has already received a written warning for this type of offense). The notice should include the step of the discipline process (i.e.: first written warning, second written warning, etc.)
- Any suspension should be indicated specifically on the notice, including the number of days suspended and the dates.
- The notice should state the next step the employee should anticipate if the infraction is repeated (“Another occurrence of no-call/no-show will result in a one-week suspension.”).
- The employee should be asked to sign the notice. If the employee refuses to sign, write “employee refused to sign” in the space and have a witness initial that the employee received a copy of the notice.
- Warning notices are documents the employer may need at unemployment hearings, arbitrations, or in defense of wrongful termination or discrimination claims. Employees and union delegates should NOT write on the notice, other than a signature. If the employee or delegate wishes to submit a written response, it should be on a separate sheet of paper and attached to the warning notice.
- The interval between warning notices is very important. Warning notices issued one year or more before a second warning notice should be given little weight unless both infractions are of a major or severe nature.
Tips for Successful Progressive Discipline
These tips for successful progressive discipline should help alleviate some of the apprehension associated with the process of disciplining employees, as well as to build the necessary foundation for surviving the inevitable disciplinary grievances.
- Do not speak to employees “out in the open.”
- Speak to employees with respect.
- Managers who come across a situation that will necessitate counseling an employee, and of which proof will be needed, later on, should contact a union delegate or other person to witness the situation.
- Unless the severity of the incident dictates severe discipline, do not skip the “normal” steps.
- In all situations, if an employee is a union member, ask if he or she requests a delegate.
- Remember that the notice is called a “Warning Notice” because the employer is trying to help employees correct the behavior that is getting them in trouble.
- Firing should never be a surprise for the employee. If they choose to ignore these warning signs, they will have “fired themselves.”
- Employees appreciate knowing where they stand. An Employer is actually doing employees a disservice if they ignore poor behavior, make excuses for it, or are overly sympathetic.
- Untruthful performance feedback can also have significant legal ramifications. Discipline should always be consistent with business necessity; warning notices should document the business reasons for addressing the issue.