Disciplinary Action Meetings: Part 1 – Introduction

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This article is written to provide you with an understanding of what Disciplinary Meetings are.

It can be frustrating when you need to set time aside from your busy schedule to handle a disciplinary meeting, not to mention the amount of energy put forward prior to the meeting to investigate. However, thinking of the bigger picture, you protect yourself and the company when you ensure the employee is aware of their inappropriate behaviour and provide them ample opportunities to improve their performance.

Discipline should be handled when an incident, situation, or a pattern of behaviour creates a significant concern; especially when informal discussions between the employee and their manager have failed to yield the desired outcomes. Disciplinary actions should be taken as soon as possible, with the appropriate level of confidentiality after any concerns have become known from the employee’s leader.

Leaders should discuss the situation with Human Resources to determine the appropriate level of disciplinary action. All decisions to escalate disciplinary action to a higher level should be made in consultation with Human Resources.

What are Disciplinary Meetings?

This type of meeting is part of a Progressive Disciplinary Guideline which is intended to investigate further into an incident, get insight into the incident from the employee’s perspective, and communicate a disciplinary or corrective action plan. Although the ‘disciplinary’ nomenclature is present, the meeting does not always result in a disciplinary or corrective action outcome.

Before any decision is final, it is vital to remember that the employee may not be aware of their misconduct. To alleviate any risks that could result in a whole host of legal proceedings due to a claim of unfair treatment or dismissal, we recommend setting a standard to how disciplinary actions are handled and adhere to it; this will demonstrate equity in the company.

HR Tip: The employee can ask for a proposed outcome which could go straight to delivering the final outcome. However, we suggest refraining from making final decisions with the employee present. When the employee is present, you are unable to privately discuss the incident in detail with others.

4 Types of Disciplinary Action Meetings

There are 4 types of Disciplinary Action Meetings, which coincide with the 4 steps taken during the disciplinary process:

1. Verbal Warning
This type of meeting occurs when informal discussions have not produced the expected results, or a situation has become progressively worse. In many instances, a verbal warning will be sufficient and should be documented in a formal Disciplinary Letter, which summarizes the situation.

2. Written Warning
Written warnings are considered a severe disciplinary action and are usually issued after verbal warnings have failed to correct a concern; or, if the situation warrants discipline that is more severe than informal discussion or a verbal warning. The written warning should also include a Corrective Action Plan, which outlines the improvement(s) required and signed by both parties.

3. Suspension
Suspension may occur only after the previous warnings have failed to correct the situation and the employee has been properly advised that a suspension may occur if shortcomings are not corrected. It is worth mentioning that the company can suspend without prior warnings if the inappropriate behaviours or misconduct is serious enough to warrant an immediate suspension.

4. Termination of Employment Termination of employment may be imposed after the formal disciplinary steps have been exhausted or the investigation of an immediate suspension is deemed to warrant such action. The responsibility for proving just cause termination rests with the company and therefore such termination must be properly documented and should be reviewed by outside counsel before proceeding.

It is crucial to document any actions given to the employee by the leader and brought to the attention of the employee via Disciplinary Letter(s) in which the employee acknowledges the needed action. This way, the package signed by the employee serves as documentation and acknowledgement that the employee understands, which can also be useful in preventing misinterpretation and establishing the desired standard of performance or behaviours that is expected. A follow-up meeting with the employee should be scheduled on the date stated in the written warnings and/or corrective action plan. You want to ensure to give the employee time to improve their performance, scheduling a meeting prior to the date specified might not provide them adequate time to show their willingness to improve.

A key take away is that regardless of the type of disciplinary action meeting, it is always in your best interest to have a copy of the written warnings, corrective action plans, and other steps taken documented for each meeting or discussion the employee participated in. In addition, it is best practice to follow up with the employee and those involved after each discussion in an email or letter. This way everyone is aware of what is happening and received the same information, to eliminate hearsay.

Now that you have been introduced to the different types of disciplinary meetings, please stay tuned for part 2 of this series when we discuss the letters and the Progressive Disciplinary Guideline.

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