Overview: Employee discipline can improve communication with employees and foster positive outcomes - but only if used effectively. An employee's professional development may be aided by any number of measures, including targeted employee training and development or a referral to counseling. However, disciplinary action should also be used to ensure compliance with work rules and to promote workplace safety. In addition, employee discipline is a natural next step if an employee has not complied with a performance improvement plan (PIP) or action plan.
Although progressive discipline may be adequate to address many situations, at times immediate suspension or termination must be used. Employers need the proper tools to tackle commonplace workplace discipline situations, such as poor attendance, substance abuse and workplace theft. These tools include a variety of resources to aid in conducting discipline successfully, including internal policies and procedures and customized warnings.
Trends: States continue to enact legislation enlarging employee protections regarding an array of activities, ranging from smoking to voting to weapons possession. In addition, employees continue to make external agency complaints or file court claims under statutes with antiretaliation or whistleblower protections, such as federal and state False Claims Acts. Depending on state law, employers may be restricted from taking a number of actions during a disciplinary investigation, e.g., employee drug or polygraph testing. In other instances, an employer's failure to adequately discipline an employee or to document the results of a disciplinary investigation may pose greater liability problems, such as in the case of an external agency probe or an employment discrimination lawsuit.
Author: Marta Moakley, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect discipline concerns regarding forthcoming employee social media privacy law.
The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has announced an award of more than $10 million to a whistleblower. The award is the largest made by the agency to date.
Updated to reflect forthcoming amendments to the Protecting Guardsmen's Employment Act.
Updated to reflect forthcoming discipline concerns under the Workplace Privacy Act.
Updated to reflect forthcoming employee retaliation protections under the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer demoted because his employer mistakenly believed he was campaigning for the mayor's political opponent may sue the City of Paterson, New Jersey for damages.
Updated to reflect the forthcoming state medical marijuana law.
Updated to reflect forthcoming amendments to severance pay and notification requirements in the event of a mass layoff or plant closing under the Maine Severance Pay Act.
Updated to reflect retaliation protections under Austin's ban the box ordinance, effective April 4, 2016.
HR and legal considerations regarding fair and consistent employee discipline. Advice on disciplining with effective results, no discrimination.