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Why It Is Important to Document Employee Discipline

Most employers and HR professionals do not enjoy disciplining employees. But, unfortunately, it is an important part of promoting quality and productivity. And while it may be tempting to offer employees second chances, it can create liability issues for your company if it makes your disciplinary policies appear arbitrary or, even worse, nonexistent.

Uniform application of disciplinary rules as well as thorough documentation of every disciplinary action can help protect your company from future allegations of wrongful discharge and liability for unemployment payments. Disciplinary policies do not need to be overly harsh. They can allow for any number of verbal or written warnings before an employee faces actual consequences. But that number must be fixed and adhered to. If one employee receives an indulgence, another employee who does not can potentially point to that fact as evidence of disparate treatment.

While employers should construct a system that suits their needs, there are several common tools that tend to achieve the desired results. An experienced Washington, DC employment lawyer can help you design and implement personnel policies incorporating various components:

Progressive discipline — Each successive violation of employer policy leads to increasing levels of discipline culminating in termination. Enumerated severe offenses may result in progression through multiple steps or immediate termination. All steps — and the consequences of reaching them — are clearly defined.

Appeal and review processes — While not necessarily appropriate for smaller companies, medium and large businesses may increase the credibility of their disciplinary processes by allowing employees to appeal to higher supervisors, HR officials and possibly even a joint management/employee committee.

Documentation — Document the reasons for disciplinary action as well as the employee’s objections to it. This can serve as valuable evidence in subsequent legal or administrative proceedings and prevent the subject employee from attempting to change the facts at a later date.

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