Employers’ Progressive Disciplinary Policies: the Written Warning

Employers in Connecticut and elsewhere are obviously buoyed by opportunities they timely identify and take advantage of to grow their businesses and prosper over the long term.

At the same time, conscientious commercial managers focus unwaveringly on business challenges that serve as obstacles to company success. Those can beam in from just about anywhere, owing to both extraneous market factors and internal complications.

That latter concern sometimes comes into sharp focus via an employee who must be dealt with because of work-related conduct or performance.

How should an employer document an official company response to a worker needing to be warned/reprimanded for deficient behaviors?

A recent article authored by a prominent HR-management group cites a number of instructive points concerning the proper look and feel for an official written warning delivered to a worker.

All those tips merge collectively into one bottom-line admonition for employers, namely this: tread carefully.

Here’s why: Employers that aren’t solidly on-point concerning offending conduct and eminently clear about why it’s a problem and what will happen if it is repeated risk a legal reprisal.

In short, they could end up in court facing allegations that they are merely engaging in harassing or discriminatory conduct. Some good-faith employers must defend against accusations that their policies are pretextual and selectively applied against workers who have done nothing wrong.

The written-warning realm can thus be a slippery slope for managers. They might feel compelled to address truly bad behavior or performance, yet they know they need to avoid raising red flags that can provide legal ammunition to a disgruntled worker.

We are keenly aware at Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah of that and other challenges that can arise in the employer-employee relationship. We note on the website of our long-established business law firm that complexity inheres in the workplace and that manager/worker interactions are “both symbiotic and adversarial.”

We welcome personal contacts to our firm. Our deep and national legal team represents both employers and employees with diligence and proven acumen in work-related matters across a wide universe of concerns.