Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Disciplinary Action up to and Including Termination

My blogging has been pretty sporadic lately! I just finished an overload semester and had a boat load of client work to handle as well. So unpaid work gets pushed aside. I hope to get more regular on this site as time moves forward. Here's a summary of some of the main points related to a program I delivered last week to over 70 management personnel.

Recently, I facilitated a training event in Springfield covering the topic above. The exact wording used in the title can often be found at the end of a personnel or employment related policy reminding employees to follow the rules (i.e. policy) or else! The problem is that many times management doesn't enforce those policies because conflict for anyone is not easy and often avoided at all costs. However, the long-term costs to a company for not enforcing can lead to poor performance, attitude, increased turnover, decreased morale of other employees, unfair or inequity complaints to outside agencies or an attorney. So bottom line grow a backbone and enforce the policies number one!

Number two, it's important to not treat non-union employees like union employees and vice-versa. This is similar to treating salary employees like hourly employees under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). You can lose your overtime exemption status and/or at will employment status respectively if you don't focus on the differences. If you have a contract covering union employees, you should have an employee handbook covering similar topics for non-union employees. When the contract or handbook says you have to go through a disciplinary process, follow it unless the act or behavior is so egregious an immediate firing is warranted and important to protect the safety of the rest of your employees. Don't make the fact that union employees can't be fired the excuse that you just let things go and assume it will work itself out. Most of the time employees need a mediator. They look to management when they can't figure out how to work out the problems themselves.

Finally, it so very important to document all encounters with employees especially those involving disciplinary action up to and including termination. Using a well-developed Corrective Action form, Last Chance Agreement, or Termination Checklist are just a few that we discussed as being important in a typical process. Documentation is important not just for the record but also for memory. Now that Illinois has a 300-day charge filing deadline, it's more importation than ever to document all verbal and written warnings as well as the termination itself. Even voluntary terminations should be documented to avoid unemployment insurance claims. When an employee asks to terminate their relationship with the county ask them to put it in writing.

In summary, think about management like a game of chess.  You have to be strategic and proactive and not reactive and defensive.  I suggest you have each other’s back as managers, follow the company polices and official employment regulations, and document everything when handling any disciplinary action up to and including termination. Have a wonderful summer!