California HR

How To Implement Progressive Discipline

Progressive discipline is a multi-step process. Today, we’ll look at how to properly implement it, and the need for proper documentation.

The usual steps are first oral and then written warnings, followed, if need be, by suspension without pay and finally by termination.

Supervisors need to learn to properly use these steps, including skillfully conducting meetings and building corrective action plans along the way.

Most important, they need to learn to focus on the erroneous action and not on the individual, and to emphasize correction, not punishment. They also should know at what steps HR approval must be sought and when other management personnel should be involved.

Shape up or ship out? Progressive discipline that won’t get you sued — webinar next Monday.

The Need for Documentation.

Each step needs to be surrounded by paperwork that shows your company has:

  1. allowed workers involved to tell their stories;
  2. investigated fully what happened; and
  3. taken any action on a fair and consistent basis.


Anything less exposes you to expensive, protracted legal challenge.

Progressive Discipline: Best Practices for Getting Problem Employees Back on Track — or Out the Door

Most employees show up for work on time, do their jobs well, and cause very few headaches. That means you spend a lot of your time as an HR professional dealing with the rest: workers with performance- or conduct-related issues that stop short of being grounds for termination.

Beyond coaching, many workplaces use progressive discipline techniques to set clear expectations for these workers and track their improvement (or lack thereof). That’s easier said than done, however:

  • Your goal is not to punish employees — it’s to improve their performance. But some workers may start to feel persecuted, or offer every excuse in the book about why they’re not living up to your expectations.
  • Enforcing progressive discipline in your workplace can be emotionally draining for even seasoned HR pros, because you’re critiquing workers and dealing with their feedback (and, unlike with terminations, you’re still seeing them every single day!).
  • If your progressive discipline places unreasonable expectations on employees, or is perceived as being unfair or overly abrupt, they could respond with legal claims of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Join us on Aug. 15 — this coming Monday! — for an in-depth webinar all about effective progressive discipline. Our expert speaker shares her secrets of getting your underperformers back on track while reducing your legal risks in the process. You’ll learn:

  • The key components of progressive discipline in California workplaces
  • How you should structure a progressive discipline plan that really works — from timelines and the level of detail you need to measurable milestones and the penalties involved
  • The documentation you must use in conjunction with progressive discipline to protect yourself if you ultimately take adverse action against a problem employee
  • The “quicksand” areas of California and federal employment law that you could unwittingly fall into with your progressive discipline plans (from FMLA/CFRA conflicts to Title VII and FEHA discrimination regs) — and how to avoid these pitfalls
  • How to handle the initial progressive discipline meeting with an employee, as well as the follow-up evaluations
  • The questions you must always ask yourself before you terminate a worker who’s struck out with your efforts at progressive discipline
  • How to train your frontline managers to manage (and document) their employees’ progressive discipline plans

Sign up now.

Can’t make it on Monday? Order the CD and learn at your leisure.

Download your free copy of Training Your New Supervisors: 11 Practical Lessons today!