It's not up to most managers to write a company's discipline policy. But it is a manager's responsibility to interpret, implement and enforce it in a consistent and fair manner.
It is not illegal if you don't follow your company's disciplinary policy to the letter. In fact, a disciplinary policy should be flexible and allow managers to take into account extenuating circumstances and to use their discretion. Legal challenges arise when an employee feels the discipline imposed on him or her is not consistent with the discipline imposed on co-workers in similar situations. If there is a racial, age, gender, etc., difference between the employee and the co-workers, a court will scrutinize whether the different discipline is valid or discriminatory.
No supervisor enjoys handing out discipline. But it's an important part of the job. Now you and your management team can get help with the sensitive, stressful process of discipline and termination. Effective Employee Discipline & Termination Strategies for Supervisors
How well do you know your discipline do's and don'ts? Many managers claim that their right to discipline employees is being eroded by a flood of legal restrictions. Some of those complaints are based on fact, some on fiction. See how well you choose between the two in the following statements.
1. An employee who refuses a legitimate work order can be fired on the spot.
2. Company policy clearly prohibits moonlighting by employees. This means you have the right to terminate an employee as soon as you learn he or she is working a second job.
3. An employee about to lose her job because of poor attendance tells you she is pregnant and expects to have her job protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
4. An employee who has already received four "final” warnings for poor performance can be terminated without any problem.
5. The performance of an employee who has filed a sexual discrimination charge against her employer continues to drop. It's best to do nothing until her discrimination case is heard.
6. A female employee likes to consider herself one of the boys, and joins in on the off-color banter that is standard throughout the department. So you're surprised when she claims the situation is getting out of hand and she wants it stopped. Since she had been a willing participant in the past, you have a right to tell her to handle it herself.
7. It took you six years to find out that a productive employee falsified his education on his application form. Those years of good service must be taken into consideration before any discipline can be imposed.
Disciplining an employee is tough. Terminating an employee takes it to a whole new level. That's why our training gives you answers to both: Effective Employee Discipline & Termination Strategies for Supervisors
Discipline is one of those gray areas where it's difficult to come up with a clear-cut delineation between what is fact and what is fiction. Keep that in mind while reading the following "answers.”
1. If a manager can prove that employees understood an order and willfully disobeyed it, few judges or arbitrators would object to a termination decision.
2. Hard economic times have forced many employees to moonlight. Many states have laws that prohibit employers from controlling employees' legal, off-duty activities. However, if a second job results in excessive absenteeism, lateness, or decreased performance, a company would have the right to take disciplinary action. If a second job puts employees in a position where they're working for a competitor, or gives rise to a conflict of interest, a manager would be justified in taking whatever action is necessary to stop it.
3. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 specifies that women affected by pregnancy-related conditions have to be treated the same as non-pregnant employees. If you terminate non-pregnant employees for poor attendance, you can impose similar sanctions on pregnant ones, taking into account the Family and Medical Leave Act, if applicable. In this case, there is no retroactive clause in the PDA that covers performance problems for employees before they became pregnant.
4. Employees who receive more than one "final warning” can legitimately claim that the whole warning system has been undermined. Be careful with more than one final warning, unless past practice or previous records encourage a "one last chance” option.
5. Employees who have filed discrimination charges against a company must be given careful treatment when it comes to discipline. "Careful” does not mean "special,” however. Some employees will try to take advantage of the fact that they have filed discrimination charges against the company and will use it to coast. If you let them get away with it, you are setting a bad precedent for other employees. You can discipline for legitimate performance problems, but make sure the performance problems are not a result of sex discrimination.
6. Beware of relying on strictly past practices. The fact that she feels the language is creating a "hostile environment” for her gives her a strong case for sexual harassment if you don't intervene to stop it.
7. Judges and arbitrators place the falsification of company records in the same category as the theft of company property. It is one of those offenses where progressive discipline may not be required, particularly if the information is the type that would have disqualified the person from the job in the first place. Even a good work record may be insufficient to mitigate a discharge decision.
Effective Employee Discipline & Termination Strategies for Supervisors gives you techniques to discipline your people the right way and keep yourself out of harm's way. In just 37 minutes of slides and audio narration, this interactive training CD gives you easy-to-follow guidelines that work for any employee in any organization.
The full program includes:
- A 25-step course that takes you from the reasons for disciplining employees through the correct procedures to how to handle a termination session (with 4 steps on this vital topic alone).
- 2 interactive exercises on common mistakes and documentation, plus a final quiz to reinforce the entire course.
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- 3 printed guides – a User's Guide, Discussion Guide and Participant's Guide – to complete, expand upon and reinforce the training. The printed copies help you get started right away, while PDF versions on the CD let you print all the copies you ever need.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Record-Keeping: Heed federal rules for discovery of e-mail, IMs
- Review anti-discrimination practices to make sure they cover contract employees, too
- Beware hasty discipline for FMLA leave-takers
- Plan for legal consequences of flextime, job sharing