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How to Determine Whether to Implement a Progressive Discipline Policy

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

Employers faced with a disciplinary issue need to decide the adequate level of discipline to achieve optimal enforcement of work rules and a productive workplace. Effective discipline policies should communicate the objective of employee discipline, such as providing a safe and healthy work environment or teaching employees proper conduct.

Most employers engage in a system of progressive discipline. In a workplace implementing progressive discipline, an employee continually exhibiting some type of undesirable behavior (e.g., being consistently late to work) will usually first receive a verbal warning, then a written warning, then a suspension followed by termination. However, a number of factors should be taken into account in deciding whether to implement progressive discipline as a workplace practice.

The following steps will guide an employer through the labor, legal or contractual issues that may affect the type of workplace discipline policy that may be implemented. In addition, the following steps will guide an employer that wishes to exempt certain employees from the progressive discipline process or to skip certain steps within the progression.