• The HR Specialist - Print Newsletter
  • HR Specialist: Employment Law
  • The HR LAW Weekly
  • The HR Weekly

Discipline / Investigations

Managing employees in remote locations? Insist they follow the rules, just like everyone else


As more and more employees work from locations away from the main office, employers are finding it challenging to manage their workforces. In some cases, that may be so difficult that it doesn’t seem worth having remote workers, especially when an employee tries to take advantage of the distance and begins to ignore the rules. Don’t let that happen.

When manager recommends firing subordinate, investigate to make sure bias isn’t a factor


If you don’t have a chance to personally observe an employee’s behavior, don’t rely solely on a supervisor’s termination recommendation. Instead, conduct an independent investigation to verify the supervisor’s claim. Otherwise, any employment decision based on that recommendation can be tainted by the supervisor’s hidden bias.

This year’s Supreme Court decisions make investigations a must

In recent rulings, the Supreme Court clearly signaled its unwillingness to tolerate even the appearance of circumventing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws. Employers must have investigative procedures in place to help guide decision-making when an employee could be disciplined or terminated.

Need to discipline employee? Prepare to back it up with contemporaneous records

Courts love to see good records that support employer discipline—records created at or very near the time events occurred. That’s why every manager needs to know how to document discipline and who gets a copy for later use.

Ready to punish slacking employee? First, have a talk with her

If you hesitate to discuss problems with employees before disciplining them, it may be time to reconsider. After all, employees often admit their mistakes when confronted directly. Any admissions the employee makes during the interview can be used later to support your disciplinary decision.

Discipline worker who complained of bias–if warranted and consistent with past practice


Employees who claim some form of discrimination are protected from retaliation. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t discipline employees who have complained. The key is to make sure any discipline is based on legitimate concerns and doesn’t go beyond that which other employees who didn’t complain would receive.

Have a progressive discipline system? Use it every time

Employers that bend their disciplinary rules after an employee files a discrimination or harassment complaint almost guarantee they will face a jury if the employee sues. Courts often see such deviations as evidence of retaliation.

Setting sound policies, following processes to a ‘T’ increase odds of winning in court


Employers that follow their own disciplinary process—even in cases involving difficult employees—benefit if those employees sue. When courts see a reasonable disciplinary policy that is applied evenhandedly, they rarely second-guess an employer’s decision to fire an employee.

Make it easy for courts to see your side–investigate thoroughly before disciplining

Courts don’t expect employers to set up the equivalent of a judicial system for disciplining employees. They just want to see a reasonable effort to ferret out the truth.

Make training for managers an essential part of your sexual harassment policy

It does no good to have a sexual har­assment policy if managers don’t know how to enforce it. Without regular manager training on how to respond to complaints, you might as well not have a policy.