Practical Application: Creating an Employee Discipline Policy

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Employee disciplinary policies help employers maintain a safe and reliable workplace, but they also give employee an opportunity to improve their behavior before adverse job consequences are necessary.


There's no other way to say it - Melissa was annoyed. On second thought, she wasn't just annoyed anymore. She was exasperated. As she walked down the hall of the middle school where she served as principal, she passed Leslie's classroom and noted that (for the third time in as many months) Leslie wasn't there. The bell had rung almost 10 minutes ago, and Leslie's students were roaming the classroom, throwing paper airplanes, and having an arm-wresting tournament.

When Melissa called HR and indicated her intention to terminate Leslie, the director's response deepened Melissa's angst. Despite the habitual tardiness, a termination action was not on the table yet. ''Clearly,'' Melissa thought to herself, ''It's time to revisit the disciplinary policy.''

As Melissa considers the existing policy, she notes several dubious provisions. Among other things, Melissa notes that:

  • There is no mention of a progressive disciplinary process even though it's widely used throughout the school district.
  • The attendance policy defines tardiness as being 'more than 15 minutes late.'
  • The district's disciplinary process is not even remotely compliant with the teachers' collective bargaining agreement and their employment contract with the district.

Analysis Questions

Analyze the scenario above and answer the following questions:

  • How should Melissa go about revising or replacing this policy?
  • What roles within the organization need to be involved in drafting the new policy?
  • What types of employment arrangements will have a profound impact on employee discipline?

Assessing Your Answers

Progressive Discipline

Melissa should make revisions so that progressive discipline is at the core of the employee discipline policy. Even before becoming a principal, Melissa was familiar with the practice because it is widely utilized in many industries. She recalls that the goal of progressive discipline is to afford employees the opportunity to improve behavior and avoid adverse employment actions. She also knows that in many cases, progressive discipline isn't necessarily required by law and that employers can skip steps in the process when serious misconduct is involved.

Roles Are Important

Melissa's second major concern is that the attendance policy grants teachers 15 minutes of leeway for on-time arrival. This is a problem because teacher tardiness leaves children unsupervised in the classroom. Upon closer inspection, Melissa realizes that the entire district falls under the scope of the same attendance policy, regardless of an individual's position or role.

This puts Melissa in a terrible bind. If she tries to enforce a different standard without a solid policy to reference, she opens the district up to all kinds of complaints like discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. She decides that roles within the organization need to be involved in drafting the new policy.

Compliance with the Law and Collective Bargaining Agreements

Having worked in both the private and public sector, Melissa knows that employee discipline and employee rights can vary widely. Specifically, she appreciates that there are three basic types of employment arrangements that have a profound impact on employee discipline. Specifically, she knows that:

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