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Week 4: Equity Toolkit - Discipline & Ending Employment

Thank you so much for joining me for this last week of the Equity Toolkit for your business. So far we have covered hiring practices, compensation and Training. This week we are looking into discipline and ending employment.

I welcome your comments on this work. If you would like me to clarify anything or would like to participate in a conversation about this work, please consider commenting in the blog post. I will be addressing questions from this week in next week's video.

Corrective Action Planning (aka Discipline)

One way to implement a disciplinary system is to follow procedures associated with a corrective action plan. Corrective action planning invites the employee into the conversation about their behavior and performance with the goal of retaining them and correcting any issues that have come up.

Corrective measures must match the seriousness of the offense. Employees won't take a system seriously if it does not acknowledge increased levels of seriousness. For example, if an employee who doesn't follow the dress code gets the same treatment as an employee who brandishes a weapon, I'd say it's pretty likely you want to revise that system.

Additionally, consider the individual’s employment and performance history into account. In other words, minor offenses and first occurrences typically warrant less severe action. Major offenses and repeated occurrences typically warrant stronger action. It is important that we give corrective measures immediately following the behavior. This way the behavior has a lower chance of happening again.

Informal Counseling The first step in correcting performance is usually informal counseling. In most cases, it is appropriate to see if coaching, counseling, and retraining can bring performance up to a satisfactory level. Feedback is typically given by talking directly with the employee. You should follow up with a simple written action plan or an email summarizing the discussion and action items. Consider the following questions early on when an employee is not performing satisfactorily:

  • Does the employee clearly understand their job duties and responsibilities?

  • Does the employee clearly understand behavioral expectations?

  • Does the employee clearly understand company policies and procedures?

  • Does the employee have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the competencies required for their position?

  • Have the employee’s job-related concerns been considered (if such concerns have been expressed to you)?

If the answer to any of the questions above is “no,” work with the employee to clear up any confusion. If necessary, help the employee find training or education to develop the required competencies needed in their job. Turning the “no” answers into “yes” answers may be all it takes to get the employee back on track to meeting performance expectations.

Formal Counseling

Formal counseling is appropriate if informal counseling did not resolve the performance issue or the issue is serious enough that it warrants skipping informal counseling. The first step in Formal Counseling is to draft a Corrective Action Plan. A template may be found here:

FF Corrective Action Plan (EDIT)
Download DOCX • 290KB

Conduct the formal counseling meeting in private and as a collaborative effort between you and the employee to improve performance. In this conversation, you should:

  • Focus on the specific performance or behavioral issue(s) rather than the employee’s attitude or personality.

  • Summarize the findings of the investigation (if an investigation was conducted).

  • Review any policy that has been violated.

  • Explain clearly why the behavior or performance is a concern, including how it is impacting operations and other employees. Use direct and descriptive examples.

  • Explain clearly the expected performance or behavior. Describe what will happen next if the performance is not corrected.

  • Allow the employee an opportunity to respond to your comments.

  • Review the drafted action plan and allow the employee to give input on the action plan. Revise the plan as needed.

  • Schedule regular check-in meetings to provide feedback during the action plan’s timeline.

  • Follow up the formal counseling meeting with a finalized action plan.

  • Review the employee’s action plan continually and give feedback on the employee’s progress toward performance improvement. Document all feedback.

Final Counseling

Final counseling is the last corrective action step prior to dismissal. Final Counseling may be appropriate if Formal Counseling did not resolve the performance issue or the issue is serious enough that it warrants skipping formal counseling. Contact your HR Support and work with them to do the following:

  • Review the employee’s formal counseling action plan (if this final counseling meeting is a follow-up to an earlier formal counseling meeting).

  • Identify any continuing performance concerns and the actions required to correct them.

  • Develop a Final Action Plan— or revise the formal counseling action plan (if there was one).

  • Send the meeting notice to the employee and schedule the final counseling meeting.

Conduct the final counseling meeting in private and as a collaborative effort between you and the employee to improve performance. In this conversation, you should:

  • Explain clearly the behavior or performance that continues to be a concern.

  • Explain clearly the expected performance or behavior.

  • Allow the employee an opportunity to respond to your comments.

  • Review the action plan and allow the employee to give input. Revise the plan as needed.

  • Provide a reasonable time frame for the employee to improve their performance or behavior, if applicable. (Some behavior must simply not be repeated, so the time frame is “immediate and sustained.”)

  • Explain clearly that if the employee fails to meet expectations within the designated time frame, the next step is dismissal.

  • Schedule regular check-in meetings to provide feedback during the action plan’s timeline.

  • Review the employee’s action plan and give feedback continually on the employee’s progress toward performance improvement. Document all feedback.

Ending Employment, Terminations

Sometimes the best thing for your organization will be to let go of an employee. What it usually comes down to is that the company isn't the right fit for the employees, and/or the employee isn't the right fit for the company. Sometimes it isn't necessary to go through all the steps of corrective action before knowing that things just aren't working out.

Letting go of employees is hard, especially if it is your first time and especially if it is an employee you have hired, trained and believed would be a great addition to your team. Next, we cover the steps to take if you need to let go of an employee.

Prepare the Final Paycheck & Final Paycheck Receipt

When you terminate an employee you are required to pay them all wages owed plus vacation accrued (not including sick pay), additionally you are required to pay them for al least half of what they were scheduled to work on the day of their termination. Prepare the Final Paycheck Receipt with the amounts paid out to the employee. A template may be found here:

FF Final Paycheck Receipt (EDIT)
Download DOCX • 289KB

Notify your bookkeeper or accountant that a termination will be happening and the time. You may need to call them if there are questions about the employee's pay. Sometimes employees would like to see their timecards, or vacation accrued so that they can be sure they are getting the right amount. If you have an unclear system for vacation time off, it can come up during a termination. You may need to pay the employee for time you believe you shouldn't have to because of the ways laws have been written. Consider this ahead of time. Bring an extra check with you to the termination incase you need to issue any additional pay.

If you do not pay an employee all wages owed on their last day you can be liable for missed wages and penalties and prosecuted by the Labor Commissioner. One time I assisted a company whose employee missed approximately $5 on their last paycheck. It ended up as a $5000 claim with the Labor Board that was settled for around $2000.

Terminate the Employee

It is important to remember that the goal of a termination is much different from the goal of training, performance review, or discipline. In a meeting to train, review or discipline you are sharing information with the employee to help them to perform their job better. In a termination, you are telling the employee they no longer work for the company, giving them their final pay, and escorting them out of the building.

Each termination is different and can bring with it certain challenges, but generally here are some best practices to follow:

  • Meet with the employee privately with at least one of member of management present

  • Tell the employee that is working relationship just isn't the right fit and that you are giving them their final paycheck.

  • Be prepared for a variety of different reactions. Some people are very quite, some people become very angry. Just keep returning the conversation to it not being the right fit. This is not the time to get into a long discussion about their job performance. Those discussions happen during training, performance reviews and discipline.

  • Ask them if the paycheck includes everything they are owed.

  • If the employee has any questions about their pay, clear them up then and there.

  • Ask the employee to sign the final paycheck receipt. Sometimes an employee will refuse to sign. If that is the case, write on it "employee refused to sign".

  • Ask the employee to collect their things and to leave the building.

It is best to remain with the employee until they have left the building. Be sure that you have collected any keys, credit cards, or company property that the employee may have. Finally:

  • Remove access to their email and other company software or programs

  • If you are worried about security, change the alarm code and the locks on the doors

  • File the final paycheck receipt in the employee file

Learn More

With the killing of George Floyd and the protests happening around the world in support of fairness for all people, I felt like June 2020 was a good month to focus on equity in our organizations. Many people felt a responsibility to do something at this time, but were not sure what exactly to do. Fortunately each of us has a sphere of influence in our businesses and organizations where we can implement practices locally that create positive change regionally, nationally and globally.

In this series we focused on four areas of our companies where we may have made decisions by default rather than through careful decision. Many times we create systems of inequity through our reaction and inaction, rather than willfully. This month we will look at hiring practices, compensation, training and corrective action planning. The goal is to see what is there, what has already been created, and to see how we may adjust these systems to create more equity for our employees.

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