On a regular basis I will be posting a Tips & Tactics entry covering a wide range of practical employment law issues. This opening Tips & Tactics column passes along some information related to employee discipline sessions.
Investigate -- Prior to initiating any disciplinary action, the supervisory team should ensure they have all the facts. While investigations can be a topic of their own, the basic idea is to get the when, where, why, what, and who information all sorted out before making any final decisions.
Be Consistent -- Make sure the disciplinary action being proposed in the current situation is consistent with past disciplinary actions for similar situations. If this is a matter of first impression make sure you set the disciplinary consequence at the proper level for future situations that may arise. One suggestion in setting the discipline level for matters of first impression is to set the discipline level as if the employee involved is one of your best employees. This will help you avoid setting an improper consequence you will be forced to live with later because of your focus on the current situation.
Corrective Action -- The general purpose of disciplinary action is to correct or remedy a deficiency in the employee's performance. Take the time to provide concrete examples of the behavior being corrected along with a plan of action to assist the employee in correcting the behavior.
Confidentiality -- The disciplinary history for an employee is not for public release to the employee's co-workers. Make sure the disciplinary meeting and events surrounding the meeting are not shared with others unless absolutely necessary in conducting the investigation. Pick a time and location for the disciplinary meeting that is private and allows for a complete and thorough discussion of the concerns.
Document -- Make sure all disciplinary meetings are documented and that you utilize a record-keeping process to retain the documentation. All written warning materials should be retained and notes should be made regarding any verbal disciplinary action taken.