With the increase in employee labor complaints, it is important for employers to have good disciplinary records. Supervisors often fail to record disciplinary actions in writing. They don’t want to go to the trouble of writing up the employee, rather, they prefer just to “have a talk” with the employee. Other times, the supervisor doesn’t want to lower morale or create tension that tends to follow formal written disciplinary notices. This can lead to problems. As far as the law is concerned, if it isn’t in writing, it never happened. Employers must document, document, document. They also must be sure to have witnesses to all employee disciplinary meetings, no matter how formal or informal.
What should be in a written disciplinary notice?
(1) The offending behavior – the act itself, not the attitude.
(2) What corrective action is required by the employee going forward?
(3) The consequences of not making the correction and an express statement that the job is in jeopardy.
A written notice with the elements will prove invaluable in unemployment proceedings. In unemployment hearings, the Department of Labor will look at:
- Can you prove the employee knew the rules?
- Is the rule reasonable?
- Did you obtain first-hand testimony when you investigated the situation?
- Did you investigate fairly and objectively?
- Is there evidence of the employee’s misconduct?
- Did you enforce the rules consistently?
- Is the discipline reasonably related to the misconduct and the past performance?
Your disciplinary records and employee policies are your best defense. Don’t skip the basics or trouble will follow.