Could Your Employee Discipline Policy Get You Sued?

Could Your Employee Discipline Policy Get You Sued?

Whenever you need to replace someone leaving your construction team, or add workers so you can take on additional projects, you make the best hiring decisions you can. You run background checks and call references. You interview each candidate carefully. Yet, there are times when a new employee just doesn’t work out. Maybe he is excessively tardy to the jobsite. Perhaps she refuses to follow directions. Whatever your reason for letting a worker go, an employee discipline policy is necessary to protect your company from wrongful termination charges. However, if you want it to do so effectively, you cannot make any of these disciplinary mistakes.

Discipline without a written policy – Unless you’ve clearly laid out your company’s discipline policy in written form, and distributed it to your workers, it will be all too easy for an employee to claim you unfairly disciplined or wrongly terminated him. Include your disciplinary policy in your employee handbook, however, and you’ll protect yourself from future lawsuits. It should clearly outline disciplinary procedures and the types of actions that will lead to progressive punishments or instant dismissal.

Disciplining “whistleblowers” – The Occupational Safety and Health Act protects workers who report employer violations of OSHA statues. If you discipline a worker who has previously reported issues at your jobsite to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you may increase your risk of an OSHA lawsuit. Protect your company by ensuring your written employee discipline policy includes a statement prohibiting disciplinary action in retaliation for whistleblowing.

Disciplining injured employees – If one of your construction workers is injured due to his or her failure to follow established jobsite safety practices, some form of disciplinary action is likely required. However, you must proceed carefully. Reporting work-related injuries is an OSHA protected activity—just like whistleblowing—and any improper application of discipline may lead to scrutiny and legal action.

Disciplining employees inconsistently – If you inconsistently apply your employee discipline policy, your workers may believe that you punish those you don’t like and avoid punishing your personal favorites for the same violations. This can lead to suits for discrimination and breach of contract. Many workers have won these types of lawsuits, and your best defense is a well-written disciplinary policy consistently applied by all manager and supervisors.

Discipline without documentation – While your employee discipline policy may include steps that progress from initial verbal warnings to final termination, it’s important to make a written record of each disciplinary action you’ve taken and include it in your worker’s personnel file. Creating an employee discipline form for this purpose may be helpful. It should include basic information such as the employee’s name, the date and time of the incident, a description of the action requiring discipline, the policy or rule violated and the action you’re taking against the employee.

If you’d like to ensure you’re not making any of these mistakes, a third-party review of your employee discipline policy can be helpful. Give us a call today to set up a time to discuss disciplinary actions and associated risks.