Tia Benjamin reports:
“When issuing a warning to an employee, clearly define your expectations, as well as any consequences for noncompliance. Otherwise, your small business could face significant liability when disciplining or dismissing a problem worker. Courts have indicated that having a policy or handbook in place isn't always enough to constitute adequate notice to an employee of what defines acceptable behavior…Schedule a confidential meeting with the employee. Disciplinary action must never be conducted in public or in front of the employee's peers. Allow sufficient time for the meeting, and take steps to prevent interruptions…Inform the employee [up front] that she'll be given a warning. Describe the unsatisfactory or inappropriate behavior, and indicate the policy and procedures the behavior violated. Explain the impact that the employee's behavior had on the company and business operations…Provide an example of the type of behavior you expect the employee to demonstrate. State what the consequences will be if the behavior doesn't improve, such as further disciplinary action or termination from employment…Document your discussion. An email or ‘confirmation of discussion’ memo is sufficient to document a verbal warning, whereas a written warning is a formal letter to the employee, containing the full specifics of the discussion. For example, a written warning must contain the details of the incident or poor performance: when it occurred, how it came to the attention of management, and the impact of the incident on the company. State the policy that was violated, and provide a copy of the specific section as an attachment. The letter also must include the plan of action and resources to help the employee improve, as well as a warning about the consequences if the improvement isn't sustained…Issue the letter of warning or documentation of the meeting to the employee. Concurrently provide a performance improvement plan, if appropriate, to help the employee rehabilitate her behavior. Determine a date to meet with the employee again to review her performance…An employee may write a written rebuttal to the letter of warning and request that it be placed in her personnel file along with the warning. Include details of prior verbal warnings or directives given to the employee about the same issue…Don't forget to add details of the appeal or grievance procedure--if one exists--to the letter of warning. For example: ‘You may appeal this action within 10 calendar days, in accordance with the provisions outlined in the employee handbook, section 12 (attached).’”
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