Employers walk a fine line when it comes to employee discipline: they must enforce their rules while also protecting employee rights. Target seems to have missed the mark recently—a lawsuit alleges an employee committed suicide after his public shaming that was part of discipline following an accusation against him of theft. To help employers stay on track, apply this discipline checklist in every situation.
__ Is there credible testimonial or documentary evidence to support the disciplinary action being taken?
__ Is the disciplinary rule that has been violated job related?
__ Has the employee been given adequate notice of the rules of conduct on which discipline is based, such as through the employee handbook or meetings the employee has attended? Is the rule sufficiently obvious that a written rule is not needed to administer discipline (e.g., for theft or physical altercations)?
__ Has the employee been given adequate notice of the consequences of violating the rules for which discipline is being taken?
__ Have all appropriate steps been taken to ensure that the disciplinary action complies with company policies on discipline (e.g., progressive-discipline policies)?
__ Have all appropriate steps been taken to ensure that the disciplinary action is consistent with past company practice in similar situations?
__ Are departures from past practice supported by legitimate business reasons?
__ Has the basis for the departure been documented?
__ Have all appropriate steps been taken to ensure that the disciplinary action does not violate any state or federal statute limiting the employer’s right to discipline employees under such circumstances?
__ Have all appropriate steps been taken to ensure equal treatment among employees before invoking discipline?
__ Has the employee been given the opportunity to explain his or her side of the story before discipline is imposed?
__ Have the employee’s disciplinary problems been adequately documented and acknowledged in writing by the employee?
__ Have all disciplinary steps and meetings involving discipline been conducted in private?
__ Has a proper investigation been conducted to support facts resulting in major disciplinary decisions (e.g., decisions involving loss of pay)?
__ Has the employee been given the right to appeal a major disciplinary decision?
__ Have alternatives to discipline been explored and documented (e.g., a modified work schedule or a change in job duties might be more appropriate than discipline for an employee consistently late because of inadequate childcare)?
For guidance on all issues involved in employee discipline and termination, turn to CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 17.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- Need to Improve Employee Performance? Have a Plan.
- Exiting Gracefully: The Exit Interview
- 10 Steps to Hiring Without Violating Disability Discrimination Laws
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