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Discipline or Discharge of an employee

What principles and procedures should a company executive follow when deciding whether to discipline or discharge an employee?

Under what circumstances, if any, is it ethically permissible for an employer to punish an employee for behavior outside work?

What ethical principles or ideals a company should consider when making decisions about layoffs?

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Corrective Discipline and Discharge
Discipline may be appropriate and necessary for some continuing or serious performance problems. Discipline is often considered a form of "punishment," but that need not be the case. While discipline can have negative consequences and must warn about possible future consequences, it can be a powerful motivator for positive change. By approaching discipline as a strategy of corrective instruction in which the supervisor and employee respectfully work together to improve the employee's performance, discipline can become a problem-solving process. Such an approach also allows for documenting how the employee will be held accountable, and a supervisor's commitment to helping the employee become successful.

Probation Periods

While coaching is fairly common, discipline is fairly limited during an employee's probation period. During the initial 6-month probation period the employee serves when he or she is newly hired, the supervisor can terminate an employee at any time (with or without warning) for any reason that does not violate public policy (e.g. illegal discrimination). Despite this flexibility, supervisors often will give initial probation employees at least one disciplinary warning, verbally or in writing, before moving to discharge.

Transfer and promotion probation
Employees have a right to receive at least one written notice of performance problems and required changes with at least 30 days to correct those problems. This warning letter advises the employee that his or her performance must become satisfactory or the employee will be removed from the position and placed on administrative layoff status at the end of the probation. It also advises the employee of the right to submit an application for a transfer.
If at the end of the three month probation period, the employee has made significant progress toward correcting the performance problems and appears likely to meet performance expectations, the supervisor has the right to extend the transfer/promotion probation period up to an additional 30 calendar days for a total probation period of four months. The employee would receive another Transfer/Promotion Probation Warning letter for the additional 30 days.

Should the employee fail to meet performance expectations during the transfer/promotion probation period, the supervisor may place the employee on administrative layoff status at the end of the probation. This status provides the employee with the same rights and responsibilities as regular layoff status, with the exception of recall/reemployment rights. The supervisor informs the employee of this decision using the Administrative Layoff letter. (Note: employees with misconduct problems may be discharged instead.)

Progressive Discipline

Regular classified employees who have successfully completed their initial or transfer/promotion probation period and then have continuing performance problems can expect their supervisor to follow ...

Solution Summary

This job highlights matters related to workers' discipline.