Progressive Discipline Process

Outlining your progressive discipline process within your employee handbook will be a critical element. If there is one part of employment law that will spell trouble for you it will be in this area! We are living in a time where everything is always somebody else's fault. I think I heard this morning on the news that someone is trying to say that because they had too many cups of coffee they were unable to control their actions. Then there is the lady that sued McDonalds' because the coffee was too hot! It thought coffee was supposed to be hot!

So get ready to experience the glorious part of implementing your progressive discipline process, which would be listening to all the ridiculous excuses that people will come up with. In the end we just hope that our policy is strong enough and carried out in a fair and equal manner as to not end up in an employment law suit! Maybe I should change that to not lose an employment law suit, since I am certain that at some point in time some idiot is going to sue you no matter what you do! Hows that for a positive outlook?

If the employee continues to disregard company policy…

The term progressive discipline should mean that you' are going to start with the least amount of discipline to correct a behavior and move toward a harsher one. If the employee continues to disregard company policy they will progress to eventually to being terminated. Our hope however should always be that their behavior will improve, versus getting worse!

So what would be the least amount of discipline to correct a behavior that could be a part of your progressive discipline process? Good question! It will depend a lot on what the behavior is. For instance if someone is tardy a set amount of times you may consider a written counseling documenting that they need to correct this behavior. This perhaps would be considered the least amount of discipline! On the other hand if someone struck someone in the mouth with their fist being terminated would be the appropriate action in my book. Perhaps even contact the police department. The difference is that someone hopefully can correct being tardy, versus if someone is striking someone else we can no longer tolerate that behavior at all, period!

A rolling calendar is a twelve month period that keeps moving…

I might suggest one way to handle a progressive discipline process and that would be to start with a written warning letter. Then move to a first written warning letter, a second written warning letter, and a third and final written warning letter that would result in the employee being terminated. I would suggest that the discipline stay active for a minimum of one full twelve month rolling calendar period. A rolling calendar is a twelve month period that keeps moving. So as an example if someone received a form of discipline on June 3rd of 2010, it would remain active until June 2nd of 2011.

In the scenario above we are allowing an employee to express poor behavior four times before they are being terminated. If before the twelve month rolling calendar expires one of the disciplinary actions passes the twelve months it would no longer be counted toward the four. Keep in mind this is only an example of a progressive discipline process. You can design it in any way you wish provided you are fair and consistent! This is the key to any progressive discipline process. If you apply your discipline process to one employee you better apply it to all. Not doing so will end you up in a courtroom faster than you can say "Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of one million dollars!"

Anywhere from $100,000 to over one million dollars…

You think I'm kidding when I say this but the average settlement in employment cases today is anywhere from $100,000 to over one million dollars. Mush of this starts from not applying their progressive discipline process fairly. Your employee handbook is one of the most important documents you will have when it comes to employment law. Not having one is a good way to get caught! Period!

There are going to be certain behaviors/actions that will qualify for immediate termination or shortening the disciplinary process. Just to give you a couple of examples we may wa,nt to list the following as grounds for immediate termination;

Gross Insubordination


Willful Discrimination

Willful Harassment of any kind



Violating any state or federal laws

Unavailable for Work (This may be effective in cases where someone was arrested)

Falsification of a company document

These are just a few to get you to start thinking about what is important you your workplace. As another example if you have company vehicles you may want to include using a company vehicle for personal business. In today's world we live on the computer so maybe a policy on viewing pornographic materials.

Use your progressive discipline process to effectively manage your business so that you can correct or eliminate problem employees. Make sure they your progressive discipline process is included in your employee handbook and given to every employee. Each employee should sign acknowledging that they have received a copy of your employee handbook.

Good Luck and May God Bless You!

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