Many organizations use progressive discipline for performance and attendance issues even with “employment at-will” language in their handbooks but will escalate discipline, when warranted. Whether administering progressive discipline or higher-level discipline, management should ensure they have done due diligence in investigating the situation prior to taking action. Investigation prior to discipline will ensure that the decision to discipline and the level administered is appropriate.
Investigating the alleged issue to determine validity is not the only item that must be considered by an employer. For example, when disciplining an employee for a performance issue, the employer should ensure that that the employee had received proper training and had been provided appropriate resources. If the employee had a similar infraction in the past, the employer should have addressed the issue at the time, clarified expectations, and alerted the employee to possible consequences. The level of disciplinary action should be in line with the type of infraction, taking into account prior discipline. The employer should also consider similar cases that were handled in the past to ensure the level of disciplinary action is equitable.
While these elements of “just cause” are used in union settings, using these same considerations on non-union cases will also help to ensure you are not taking an action that could be litigated later. If you are currently working on performance issues and are not quite sure about next steps, contact Southwestern HR Consulting today!
Summarized by | Magdalena Vigil-Tullar
HR Consultant | MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CLRP