Progressive discipline, including verbal and written violations, are corrective actions for reoccurring poor performance. Violations can range from attendance to poor completion of job duties. The importance of your employee handbook cannot be stressed enough, as it works in conjunction with documentation of violations and structured termination practices.
Violations fulfill two main focuses: One, document consistent patterns of poor work performance, such as, insubordination, attendance and punctuality, health and safety, etc. Secondly (and in conjunction with the above mention), they serve as a defense if faced with unfair or unlawful terminations claims. Even states that are permitted to exercise "at will" employment are not immune to discrimination claims under federal law. This fact alone emphasizes the need for documentation to counterattack these discrimination claims.
Typically, a litigation attorney will offer an ex-employee a free consultation to assess the validity of their claim. When conducting this complimentary audit, they will review all documentation relating to the employment of your ex-employee. They most likely will start with the separation documents, employee handbook, and violations. This initial audit will be the determining factor of whether they will take a case or not. Not having any of the above-mentioned documents, or having inconsistent documentation, is typically indicative of other missteps in your employment process. In contrast, having these documents will deter even the most proficient attorneys.
A development plan is also corrective action meant to work towards improvement, except they are more forgiving. Typically, development plans are more of coaching than a means to a termination—typically for instances where you feel improvement is possible. Development plans will customarily include a timeline for improvement, as well as tangible goals you expect to see by the end date of their development plan. Development plans reinforce that you put your best foot forward in providing the proper coaching, training, and open door, towards this employee's success.
No matter which avenue you decide to proceed with in addressing poor work performance, thoroughly documenting all corrective action is imperative. Unless an egregious act is committed (i.e. theft, violence, etc.), no one should be terminated without objective and consistent documentation supporting the termination. By having violations and development plans in place you are putting your best foot forward in working in good faith towards team-members success.
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