Q. Is it OK to terminate an employee without first issuing some kind of a disciplinary warning?
A. Generally yes, unless they are subject to a collective bargaining agreement or employment agreement that says otherwise. However, you may want to consider issuing a warning first (unless the employee has engaged in misconduct or some type of egregious behavior).
Providing a warning enables you to have documentation in the employee’s file that supports an ultimate decision to terminate employment.
Further, employee handbooks typically include apolicy, stating that a warning will be issued before an employee is terminated. Although these policies often state that disciplinary steps may be skipped depending on the particular situation, you should review the circumstances to determine whether immediate termination is appropriate.
If you decide to fire an employee without issuing a warning, you should make sure that you are treating the employee consistently with how you have treated other employees. For example, if you have provided warnings to white employees and given them the opportunity to improve, but decide to fire without a warning a Hispanic employee, you could be vulnerable to a claim of discrimination.
Of course, every individual situation is different. Consult with an attorney to evaluate the risk of a discrimination claim.