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MANAGING STAFF

Model Policy: Progressive discipline and employee termination

Why you need this policy:

There’s no point in having any policies, procedures, and standards unless you’re prepared to discipline employees who disobey them. The problem is that discipline is not only unpleasant but likely to result in some form of legal grievance, especially if the employee belongs to a union. That means you’ll end up having to defend your action before an arbitrator or court.

How this policy helps you:

Luckily, there’s a technique you can use to make punishments stick if they’re challenged later on. Better yet, this technique can help you straighten out wayward employees and avoid showdowns. The technique is called progressive discipline and it involves imposing a series of gradually sterner punishments. It usually starts with warnings for a first offense, mounts to suspensions and ultimately dismissal. At each stage you confront the employee, explain what he did wrong, impose the appropriate punishment and warn him to clean up his act.

How to use this policy:

You must establish a written policy or procedure giving you the right to use progressive discipline against your employees. This Model Policy is a fairly generic version, which allows for warnings, followed by suspension and ultimately termination. But you’ll need to modify the Model Policy to reflect your own progressive discipline procedures and the terms of discipline provisions contained in any applicable collective bargaining agreements (if your employees are in a union). Warning: This Model Policy applies to employees who are not attorneys. Attorney discipline requires the development of separate policies and procedures dealing with the ethical and other professional issues that arise when the individual being disciplined is an attorney.

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