The Disciplinary Interview is a employers attempt to combat policy infractions. These are different from the Counseling Interviews we discussed previously, because these are not directly performance related. You would use a Disciplinary Interview for things like excessive lateness, unannounced absences, theft, harassment, fraud, or threats of violence. Please feel free to comment about experiences you have seen at your own workplace down below.
You will want to follow a series of steps in the Disciplinary Interview process to ensure the company is safe from liability should the infracting employee be released. The process may also be truncated depending on the severity of the issue. There are some employers have a Zero-Tolerance policy towards fist fighting or bomb threats. They may use a “One-Strike-And-You’re-Out” step, which will eliminate many of the earlier steps in the interview process getting you immediately to termination. For lesser infractions, such as repeatedly being 15 minutes late to work, a more drawn-out process is used to give the employee an opportunity to correct the situation. The typical steps that will be followed are:
1) Verbal Warning
2) First Written Warning
3) Second Written Warning
Giving the Interview
The interview a disciplinary interview can be a challenging task. The employee may be agitated or uncomfortable with the situation surrounding the interview. The manager or HR associate giving the interview should stick to the facts; do not get emotional. Any emotion you provide in the interview may be reflected and amplified by the interviewee. Ask questions to get the employee’s side of the story. It may be possible that they were unaware of the rule or regulation that they were breaking. It may be that a supervisor or other official had told them to break the rule. These are the facts that you want to come out. A general rule with these interviews is if the volume and energy of the employee goes up in the interview, the interviewer should try speaking more quietly and more slowly, as this may bring the upset employees energy level back down. Always have easy access to a phone in the event you need to call security. Be sure to document all of your questions and the employee's answers.
The written warning will lay out exactly what the employee is doing wrong. If the problem has occurred as part of a trend, it should also specifically state each time the infraction was observed. For example, if the policy infraction was that an employee failed to wear a safety harness every time they went up in a Cherry Picker crane to perform an inspection, you should include every date that this was observed to occur. The warning should also include reference to any failure to make a correction after the verbal warning. The written warning should state what the employee needs to do if they wish to keep their job (i.e. Wear a Safety Harness). There should be an area where an employee can add their own comments. Then the manager and employee will have a place to sign. If there is a third party witness, often someone from Human Resources, they will have a space to sign as well. In the event the employee refuses to sign, inform them that their signature is not stating they agree with the warning, it is that they are acknowledging the warning has been given. If they still refuse, be sure to note that on the record.
Do Not Build A File
The last note I want to make is that you should never “Build A File” after the fact. You should ensure that the documentation of infractions happens as they occur. Courts do not look favorably on employers who add new back-dated warnings into an employee’s file as an excuse to fire someone.
And remember all of you Human Resources professionals: Be Human... Be a Resource... Be a Resource for Humans.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are by the author Trevor Stasik, and do not necessarily reflect the views of any employer or any other organization. Please note, this information is based on my understanding and is only to be used for informational and educational purposes. Do not take what I am writing as advice. Seek your own legal counsel and/or see a tax accountant before making business or personal decisions. The author of this post makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.