"The seemingly simple task of taking employment action is fraught with peril, and rash actions have the potential to turn into lengthy, expensive litigation. Instead of jumping in [to terminate an employee,] stop and think about it. Is your decision prohibited by law? Even if it is not, would an uninvolved party think it looked like it was?"
-Ann Clarke Snell
A Progressive Discipline Policy is your best protection against making mistakes that will turn into a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Because it is probably in your best interest to rehabilitate or correct an employee, you must be clear about your expectations. This is the goal of a progressive discipline policy: it provides a catalyst for change.
Before terminating any employee, it is wise to have documentation of a "final incident." "Was the last thing that happened so grave in nature that the employee knew her job was in jeopardy, and that the incident or infraction committed would lead to immediate discharge?" asks John A DiCicco, CEO of Organizational Analysis Systems, Inc. Documenting this "straw that broke the camel’s back" will be invaluable in the event that you need to defend your company's actions in court.
In the event of gross misconduct such as violence, stealing, or other abuses, termination can be immediate. Contact a Professional Employer Organization if you are faced with employee termination - PEOs are trained to help.
Avoid the "Wrongful Termination" Lawsuit:
Progressive Discipline Policy:
"Supervisors often try too hard to be supportive of an employee, or they are so uncomfortable confronting an employee about a problem, that they fail to provide the employee with clear notice that the employee's performance is not meeting established expectations."
-Attorney Anne E. Denecke.
Sources: Denecke, Anne E., "Progressive Discipline: A Positive Process to Correct Behavior." www.ortrucking.org
DiCicco, John A. "Warn, Document, and Communicate: Establishing an Effective Progressive Discipline Policy." The PEO Insider.