HR Question: Employee Discipline

Question: What are some typical examples of employee discipline? Are there any you recommend?

Answer: Discipline should reflect the severity of the behavior, attempt to correct it, and be applied consistently. You’ll want to consider how you addressed certain behaviors in the past and the precedent you want to set for the future. For instance, if you jump straight to a final warning when a certain employee is an hour late to work, but let another employee come in late regularly without so much as a written warning, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

We generally recommend progressive discipline. This means you start small and work your way up to termination. Progressive discipline often includes these steps:

  • Oral counseling/warning(s)
  • Written warning(s)
  • Final written warning
  • Unpaid suspension—we generally don’t recommend this, as it’s likely to make the employee more disgruntled than they were before, and ultimately be more harmful than helpful, but you may find that it’s appropriate in some circumstances; be sure to keep reporting time pay in mind for non-exempt employees, depending on state law
  • Termination

At each step, make your expectations clear, notify the employee of the consequences should they fail to improve (that they’ll be one step closer to termination), and document what actions you took. The warnings you give to the employee should stick to the facts, i.e., what infraction was observed, when it occurred, and what policy or policies was violated. Opinions about the infraction should be left out, as these are easily disputed. For example, “Yesterday, you arrived 20 minutes late in violation of our attendance policy” simply states the facts, whereas “You’re always tardy and can’t be trusted to arrive on time” is likely to get pushback.

This Q&A was provided by Mineral, powering the UST HR Workplace. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a FREE 60-day trial here. As a UST member, simply log into your Mineral portal to access live HR certified consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library, and more.

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08/04/23 9:22 AM

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UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

Your use of this site and the provision of basic information constitute your consent for UST to use the information supplied.

UST may collect generic information about overall website traffic, and use other analytical information and tools to help us improve our website and provide the best possible information and service. As you browse UST’s website, cookies may also be placed on your computer so that we can better understand what information our visitors are most interested in, and to help direct you to other relevant information. These cookies do not collect personal information such as your name, email, postal address or phone number. To opt out of some of these cookies, click here. If you are a Twitter user, and prefer not to have Twitter ad content tailored to you, learn more here.

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