A progressive discipline policy gives an employee a clear expectation of what should happen when a company directive is violated, or when an expectation is not met.  In such a policy, the severity of the penalty increases with each employee infraction.  Typically, the policy includes steps as follows:  an initial verbal warning, a written warning, suspension and, ultimately, termination.  It is important to note that an employer may retain the discretion to skip steps for severe infractions.

There are many advantages for employers and employees who understand their workplace progressive discipline policy.  For instance, employees are afforded an opportunity to understand what actions can be taken to improve their job performance and to correct behaviors.  Workplace morale is enhanced when employees are confident they will not be immediately fired without a chance for improvement.  Further, morale is strengthened when employees have an understanding there is a method in place for addressing the poor behavior of their colleagues.

The main disadvantage of a progressive discipline policy is that it can be inflexible.  Since employers will want to ensure that it is followed consistently, or risk the appearance of discriminatory practices, an employer may enforce stricter standards and expectations on employees with less flexibility.  Additionally, constraints on smaller businesses with less staff may lead straight to termination when suspension is not feasible while maintaining operations.

Under certain circumstances, a progressive discipline policy can transform an at-will employment relationship into a contractual one thereby giving an employee the right to sue for breach of contract.  If you have a question about your progressive discipline policy, the Attorneys at Humble Law would welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

Attorney Hayley Gahlau

Hayley Gahlau is an Associate Attorney in Humble Law LLC’s Atlanta office. She represents employees whose rights have been violated. Hayley can be reached via email at hayley@humble.law or by phone at 678-882-1444.

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