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Discipline / Investigations

Shouting match doesn’t count as mediation

If, during an investigation, you must bring an employee and her alleged harasser together to find out what happened, don’t let the meeting turn into a shouting match.

Consistency is key when deciding how to discipline for excessive medical absences

Employers don’t have to keep disabled employees on the payroll after they have exhausted all available leave and received a reasonable accommodation of taking more time off. That doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily pick and choose which employees you discharge.

Warning letter doesn’t count as retaliation

Retaliation must include an adverse employment action such as termination, demotion or some other substantial and negative action like transfer to an undesirable shift. A mere letter of warning doesn’t rise to the required level of adversity.

Bypass progressive discipline if necessary

Progressive discipline plans are great for correcting the behavior of employees in whom you have invested time and money and getting them back on track. But always leave yourself an “out” for those cases when retaining the worker just doesn’t make sense.

Union member sentenced for defrauding health plan

A scheme to defraud the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s health plan has earned a Southern California longshoreman a year-long prison sentence, along with a requirement to repay $201,000.

Prepare to prove discipline has been consistent

If you need to fire someone for breaking a rule, document the exact rule he broke. Then check to see how you punished others who broke the same rule. Be prepared to show how their situations compared to the current case.

Threatening to reduce employee’s bonus isn’t enough to justify quitting

A grieving husband has lost a lawsuit that claimed he had no choice but to quit after his employer threatened to reduce his bonus if he continued to take time off to recover from a tragic personal loss.

Respect the results of outside investigations into complaints

Be prepared to honor the findings of outside investigators you hire to get to the bottom of internal complaints. Accept the results and act immediately to remedy the situation.

Cite specifics to document poor performance

When disciplining workers, consider the potential for lawsuits. Assume that anyone you terminate might sue.

Document why discipline may have differed

Before you discipline any employee, review how you handled similar situations in the past. If you decide to discipline more harshly in a new case, be sure to detail in your records exactly why.