An effective discipline program is beneficial to both arts organizations and its employees. It helps employees correct any shortcomings with the goal of becoming a valuable, contributing member of the workforce. Documentation created as a result of the discipline process can also help protect an employer in the event that a termination or other adverse employment decision becomes necessary.

The following are guidelines to consider in implementing an employee discipline policy.

Establish a workplace code of conduct

Employees must have fair and reasonable notice of what is expected of them. They need to know the parameters of permissible and prohibited conduct in the workplace. Rules should be:

  • Clearly communicated to all employees in writing
  • Compliant with state and federal laws
  • Consistently and fairly enforced

There are as many variables in workplace rules of conduct as there are employers however employer rules generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Attendance, tardiness, and dress/appearance
  • Use of company property— whether employees may use company phones
or computers for personal calls or email, photocopy machines, etc.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Workplace safety, e.g. sleeping on the job.
  • Terminable offenses, such as violence in the workplace, sale of illegal drugs, or carrying a firearm to the workplace

Disciplining with fairness

If employees believe they are being treated fairly, they are much more likely to accept the consequences of their actions. Consistent and fair discipline will also help to avoid successful claims of discrimination or other unlawful conduct.

Critical to fair and just discipline are:

  • Thorough investigation of the circumstances, including interviewing of witnesses, etc.
  • Providing notice of the misconduct to the employee. Too often employers fail to clearly communicate to the employee the nature of his or her infraction.
  • Allowing the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegation.
  • Making the “punishment fit the crime.” Draconian discipline for a minor infraction is counterproductive, and modest discipline for a serious infraction is not helpful.
  • An employee should have some right to appeal a disciplinary decision to some person above the rank of the one issuing the discipline who was not involved in the initial decision.
  • Employers must keep a careful paper trail to document each infraction and the discipline administered.

Some infractions are so serious that the employer must take immediate action for the wellbeing of the workplace and/or other employees, for example, if an employee is involved in violence in the workplace. Under such circumstances, the employer may wish to suspend the employee “subject to discharge.” The employee is suspended without pay pending an investigation, which should be done expeditiously. If the investigation exonerates the employee, the lost pay is restored. If the investigation supports discharge or similar severe discipline, the employer may then proceed to initiate that discipline.

Contributed by Cliff Watkin of Ipswich Bay Advisors
You can reach Cliff at cwatkin@ipswichfinancial.com