BIG STICK DIPLOMACY « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Employee Discipline Policies

Then-New York Governor Teddy Roosevelt probably summed up politics, diplomacy, and personnel management with his line: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”  Some suggestions:

Management is Part of the Solution, Not the Problem – In the face of reported misconduct, a personnel manager should always proceed in a manner in which he or she could take pride later.  It is possible the report is false, misleading, or otherwise in error.  Investigation should be fair and forthright.  Unless, it’s a matter of some overt, observed threat to safety, the accused should have the opportunity to respond fully to any accusation before a decision is made on consequences.

Document, Document, Document: Document.

Policies Should Allow Discretion on Discipline – Employment contracts and workplace policies that strictly define the procedures that must be followed and the consequences that must result from specific offenses are too restrictive for anyone’s good.  While policy should supply standards of conduct and rules for reporting, investigation and handling of misconduct, policy should also provide management the discretion to deal fairly with situations on a case-by-case basis.

For example, a company policy that promises only a warning for any first offense may be a problem when an employee’s first misbehavior is embezzlement or violence against another worker.

● Consistent Handling of Reported Misconduct – Managers should strive to deal with similar situations similarly.  If there are reasons why one employee received a harsher consequence than another for a similar offense, the reasons should be documented.  See Document, Document, Document: Document section above.

Workplace discipline is never fun.  It is even less so when management badly handles a matter, either too softly or too harshly.  When in doubt, reach out.  You usually can reach us at nearly the speed of light.