Corrective disciplinary actions to employees taken by organizations

For repeated but relatively minor incidents of substandard performance, misconduct, or rule violations, corrective counseling and discipline should be progressive. The normal sequence of action is:

  1. Initial discussion;
  2. Oral Warning;
  3. Written Reprimand;
  4. Suspension;
  5. Discharge.

Depending on the severity of the case, the action may begin at any of these steps. Any action involving suspension or discharge requires prior review by the Director of Human Resources or his/her designated representative.

Initial Discussion: Normally, initial disciplinary action should be in the form of an oral discussion, especially for minor rule violations. If it appears that an employee has failed to perform his/her work or conduct him/herself according to requirements, the supervisor should first talk to the employee about the matter and informally inquire further into the situation. If facts indicate that the employee may have been at fault, the supervisor should discuss the matter with him/her and the expectations of the supervisor or steps needed for improvement.

Oral Warning: If the initial discussion fails to produce the desired results, an oral warning is normally the next step. With an oral warning, the supervisor should again discuss the matter with the employee. If the supervisor wishes, he/she may call on another person to be present as a witness, preferably another supervisor. The employee should understand the gravity of the situation. With an oral warning, the employee is put on notice that disciplinary action will be forthcoming if there is a repeated violation or if the situation does not improve. Supervisors should maintain a complete and accurate written notation of the warning.

Written Reprimand: A Written Reprimand involves both a formal interview with the employee by the supervisor and an official memorandum to the employee emphasizing the negative effect of the employee’s conduct or work performance on his/her record. If the immediate supervisor does not have the authority to discharge, then such an interview should be conducted by or with the permission of the department official who does have discharge authority.

A written reprimand should include: names of everyone involved, dates, description of incident or unsatisfactory performance, witnesses (if any), and action taken. Also included should be action that will be taken if satisfactory improvement does not occur. The reprimanding official should sign it. It should also bear or request the employee’s comments, if any, and his/her signature. The employee should be informed that his/her signature indicates receipt of a copy of the reprimand letter, but not necessarily mean that he/she agrees with its contents. If the employee refuses to or is unable to sign the reprimand, a witness, preferably another supervisor should verify that the employee has received a copy of the reprimand.

Written reprimands will be removed from an employee’s permanent file and placed in a confidential file in the Human Resources Department if the employee has performed satisfactorily for a twelve-month period from the date of the last reprimand letter. In unusual circumstances, the department official may request, in writing, that the reprimand be removed from the file prior to the end of the twelve-month period. The reprimand will remain a part of the employee’s record.