What is employee discipline?
Employee discipline refers to the actions taken by an employer, for example verbal warnings, written warnings or suspension, for an employee's failure to follow the organization's rules, standards, or policies. It is important that employers discipline employees for misconduct, negligence, and disobedience.
Why should I discipline my employees?
Discipline sets a standard of conduct in your workplace and helps protects your company's legal rights in the event you need to terminate an employee.
No matter how positive or accommodating your workplace may be, there may come a point where you must terminate an employee. Terminating an employee for just cause can save your company a great deal of money. Regular discipline helps to set up a termination for cause in two ways: first it gives a clear warning that repeated conduct of the same type can lead to a dismissal. Second, it provides a written record of the misconduct - lawyers sometimes say: "if it's not in writing, it never happened."
How should I discipline my employees?
Some employers fundamentally understand the nature and purpose of employee discipline. You should not yell at or berate your employees. You should not dock pay (unless a suspension is warranted). Discipline always involves a written warning that if the conduct is repeated, it will eventually lead to the employee's termination for cause.
Is it ever appropriate to do more than simply providing a written warning?
Yes. Employers may use suspensions with or without pay in the event of more serious or repeated misconduct. In fact, a termination for cause will be better supported if it is preceded by escalating levels of discipline, the most severe being a suspension without pay. This is known as progressive discipline - an approach endorsed by both courts and arbitrators. The escalating levels of discipline for repeated misconduct of a similar nature signals to the employee that their job may be on the line and gives them an opportunity to correct the behaviour before imposing the "capital punishment" of employment law: termination.
Certain forms of discipline are never advisable, such as a dock in pay, a demotion, a denial of a bonus that would otherwise have been paid, or an indefinite suspension. Seek the counsel of an expert employment lawyer before resorting to discipline any more serious than a written warning.
When should an employer not discipline an employee?
It is important to discipline your employees when it is warranted, but employers can get themselves in a lot of trouble for punishing employees for the wrong reasons. The following are some examples of things that employees should seldom, if ever, be disciplined for:
- Taking too many sick days (unless they're taken under false pretenses).
Failing to provide medical information.
Reporting workplace harassment, workplace violence, or otherwise unsafe workplace conditions.
Insisting on rights under the Employment Standards Act.
Reporting workplace discrimination.
If you are ever unsure, it is always prudent to have an expert employment lawyer advise you as to disciplinary wording and strategy.
What can Hyde HR Law do for my company?
The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts on employee discipline. We can help you design and implement workplace policies that are tailored to your specific business needs, advise you on best practices or in specific cases of employee discipline and, vigorously defend the company in the event that an employee sues as a result of a disciplinary action. Contact us today.