Key Points

  • Employers must realize that although they may have an employment at-will organization, the majority of collective bargaining agreements only permit employees to be disciplined or terminated "for cause." While often debated, "just cause" can be explained as an action that is reasonable under the circumstances, not offending notions of fairness and not unduly harsh or arbitrary.
  • It is advisable that employers use a progressive discipline system. This allows employers to use increasingly severe measure of discipline if the employee fails to correct his or her conduct after having been given reasonable opportunity. Steps of progressive discipline are typically oral reprimand, written warning, suspension and termination.
  • Regardless of whether it is explicitly expressed in a collective bargaining agreement, employers must ensure that they provide the employee with the following procedural safeguards when imposing disciplinary action: opportunity to be heard prior to bring disciplined; notice of disciplinary action and future hearing(s); union representation during investigatory interview; and cross-examination of accuser.

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