progressive discipline: what you need to know

Progressive Discipline: What You Need To Know

When it comes to dealing with problematic employees, an employer’s careless response could increase their liability and result in costly consequences. On the other hand, if an employer is overcautious, they might unintentionally condone the poor behaviour/performance, and minor issues might grow into full-blown dilemmas. The best way to address issues is by establishing a policy on progressive discipline and implementing it consistently.

What is Progressive Discipline?

Progressive discipline is an employee management strategy used by employers to address and correct employee performance or behaviour issues. The goal of progressive discipline is to help employees understand the expectations of their job, correct any deficiencies, and ultimately improve their performance while maintaining a fair and consistent approach. Here’s how it typically works:

Verbal Warning: The process often begins with a verbal warning. A supervisor or manager speaks with the employee about the performance or behavioural issue, discusses expectations, and provides guidance on how to improve.

Written Warning: If the issue persists or escalates, a written warning may be issued. This formal document outlines the problem, the consequences if the issue continues, and sets clear expectations for improvement.

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP): In more serious cases, a PIP may be implemented. This is a detailed plan that outlines specific goals, expectations, and a timeline for improvement. The employee and supervisor collaborate to create the plan.

Suspension: If the problem continues, a suspension with or without pay may be the next step. This is a more serious consequence and typically involves a temporary removal from the workplace.

Termination: As a last resort, if the employee fails to improve or correct the issue, termination may be necessary. In this case, the employer can show that they provided multiple opportunities for the employee to correct the problem.

Progressive discipline should be applied consistently and fairly to all employees to avoid claims of discrimination or favouritism. It’s essential for employers to document each step of the process, including warnings, discussions, and the employee’s response.

While progressive discipline is a common approach, it may not be suitable for all situations. In some cases, particularly for severe misconduct or policy violations, immediate termination may be warranted. The specific approach can vary depending on the company’s policies, the nature of the problem, and applicable employment laws.

Why Use Progressive Discipline?

Progressive discipline is used in employment settings for several important reasons:

Fairness and Due Process: It provides a fair and structured process for addressing employee performance or conduct issues. This ensures that employees are treated consistently and that they have an opportunity to correct their behavior before facing more severe consequences.

Opportunity for Improvement: Progressive discipline gives employees the chance to understand what they are doing wrong and improve their performance or behaviour. It can be a constructive method for helping employees meet job expectations.

Documentation: Each step of progressive discipline is documented, which can be essential for legal purposes. It provides a clear record of the employer’s efforts to address and resolve the issue, which can be helpful in the event of legal disputes or claims.

Legal Protection: Following a progressive discipline process can reduce risk for employers from wrongful termination claims. It demonstrates that the employer took reasonable steps to address the issue and allowed the employee opportunities to correct their behavior.

Maintaining a Positive Work Environment: Progressive discipline can help maintain a harmonious workplace by addressing problems before they escalate. It encourages employees to meet expectations and promotes a culture of accountability.

Consistency: It helps ensure consistent treatment of employees. When all employees are subject to the same process, it minimizes the potential for claims of discrimination or unfair treatment.

Cost Savings: Addressing issues early through progressive discipline can be more cost-effective than immediate termination, as it may help retain valuable employees and reduce turnover costs.

It’s important to note that while progressive discipline is a valuable tool for addressing many workplace issues, it may not be suitable for all situations. In cases of serious misconduct or policy violations, employers may need to take immediate action, such as suspension or termination, to protect the organization and its employees. The specific approach to employee discipline should be based on the nature of the problem, company policies, and applicable employment laws.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Assist with Progressive Discipline

Employment lawyers can provide valuable guidance and support to employers and employees facing progressive discipline situations. Here are some ways they can assist:

For Employers

Policy Review and Development: Employment lawyers can help employers review and update their workplace policies and procedures to ensure they align with employment laws and best practices. This includes creating clear and effective progressive discipline policies.

Legal Compliance: They can advise employers on compliance with federal, provincial, and municipal employment laws. This is crucial to ensure that the discipline process adheres to legal requirements.

Strategic Advice: Employment lawyers can offer strategic advice on how to handle specific cases of employee misconduct or performance issues. They can help employers determine the appropriate steps within the progressive discipline process.

Documentation: Lawyers can guide employers on proper documentation of each stage of progressive discipline. Thorough and accurate documentation is vital for legal protection.

Negotiation and Resolution: In cases where the employment relationship may be salvageable, lawyers can assist in negotiating with employees to develop improvement plans or resolve disputes.

For Employees

Understanding Rights: Employment lawyers can inform employees of their rights in the progressive discipline process. They can assess whether the employer is following legal procedures and respecting the employee’s rights.

Review of Documentation: Lawyers can review the documentation related to the progressive discipline process to ensure it is accurate and fair. They can identify any potential legal issues or violations.

Legal Claims: If the discipline process is unfair, discriminatory, or in violation of employment laws, lawyers can help employees file legal claims, such as wrongful dismissal or human rights complaints.

Negotiation: Lawyers can negotiate with the employer on behalf of the employee to seek fair resolutions or settlement agreements.

Legal Representation: In cases where legal action is necessary, employment lawyers can provide representation throughout the legal proceedings, including at tribunals or in court.

In both cases, employers and employees can benefit from having legal counsel to navigate the complexities of progressive discipline. Whether it’s ensuring that the process is legally sound for employers or protecting employees’ rights and interests, employment lawyers can play a critical role in resolving workplace issues.

Contact Achkar Law

If you’re facing challenges related to employment law, human rights, progressive discipline, or any other workplace issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to Achkar Law. Our team of experienced employment lawyers is ready to assist you, whether you’re an employer or an employee.

Contact us today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation and explore your legal options. We are committed to protecting your rights and helping you find a resolution to your workplace challenges.

Get in touch with Achkar Law by calling 1 (800) 771-7882 or emailing us at [email protected]. Our dedicated team is here to assist you with your employment law needs.