Ask Leslie: Should I Always Use All My Progressive Discipline Steps?

By Leslie Zieren, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

Dear Leslie:

A new employee, just four months on the job, did not follow a safety procedure. Luckily, his error was corrected quickly by his supervisor, but the employee's error could have resulted in costly damage to a customer's property and personal injuries. We have retrained him. What if he makes the mistake again? Our progressive policy allows for three write-ups prior to termination. I really don't need to go through the steps, do I?

Signed: Paul


Dear Paul:

Most progressive discipline policies contain a provision that gives the employer the right to skip any of the disciplinary steps and go right to termination, if, in the judgment of the employer, termination is warranted.

Let's talk about effective re-training. When an employee makes such a potentially serious error, a written record of the event should be placed in his file. This should include a statement by the person who observed the event, the possible consequences averted, and the re-training steps taken and by whom.

It is also important that his manager observe this employee correctly performing the task now that he has been re-trained, and note his observations of the same in his personnel record.

If the employee violates the safety procedure again, follow-up with him until he is able to "train" his manager on how to correctly do the task. That way, you will be sure the employee understands. Does his performance depend on his being able to read signage or other directions in a particular language? Make sure he actually can read the language. Have him demonstrate that he can; don't just ask him.

If you are confident you have used managerial observation and effective training measures, but the employee continues to be unreliable, consider termination.

Jack McCalmon and Leslie Zieren are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

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