“Progressive Discipline Policies and UI protests – they can make or break your success.”

Being an effective manager is one of the hardest jobs in the world because now you have to pay attention to individual performance and take action when necessary. However, there is a right way and a wrong way when launching disciplinary action against an individual. As a manager, one needs to be cognizant that proper procedures are in place when “writing someone up” so that it minimizes the risk of the employee coming back and protesting.

Terminating or suspending an employee can affect the rest of the team, leading to morale issues if it’s not done properly. There is also the risk of the employee retaliating and coming back with claims in regards to discrimination, harassment, or other work-related issues that may or may not be true.

Just remember that the short-term discomfort of disciplining an employee the correct way is much better than ignoring their behavior. By tackling the problem head-on, you are more likely to face fewer consequences down the road.

When a solid progressive discipline policy is in place, it can provide many benefits to employers and employees because everyone has a set of guidelines to follow in knowing what is acceptable, not acceptable, and how discipline will be handled. A progressive discipline policy can:

  • Create structure and predictability to the discipline process
  • Set a set of discipline standards, allowing managers and employees to be on the same page
  • Help managers and supervisors properly document disciplinary actions
  • Be proactive in defeating discrimination, unemployment, and other work-related claims

What is a Progressive Discipline Policy?

A progressive discipline policy is meant to provide structure and fairness to the disciplinary process. This type of policy spells out a first offense, second offense, and termination. Here is an example of an average policy:

  • 1st offense- verbal or written counsel
  • 2nd offense- a written warning
  • 3rd offense- suspension
  • 4th offense- termination

Keep in mind that this is only an example and managers should have the opportunity to deviate from this as they feel necessary. It’s best to work with an HR department or keep them involved in any employee problems so that they can provide backup if needed.

What are Unemployment Insurance (UI) Protests?

After an employee has been terminated, they may file an unemployment claim to receive additional compensation. Since the company is the one that pays unemployment, there is an opportunity for the employer to protest that claim. Maybe the employee voluntarily quit or was laid off, but the employer has the chance to tell its side of the story before paying the claim. Unemployment claims that are denied or repudiated in favor of the employer can, in turn, lower the employer’s UI tax rate and costs.

A typical employer only wins about 50 percent of unemployment protests that are sent to the state UI agency, and it’s common that they don’t take advantage of protesting other issues that can help lower their UI tax rate. That’s why properly documenting and recording employee issues can lead to direct savings when negotiating UI rates down the road.

The Connection between Progressive Discipline and UI Protests

In reviewing employee terminations at a particular company, state UI agencies are looking for a pattern in employee offenses. This is where progressive discipline policies come in handy because they usually provide that framework for employers to properly document these patterns which can then be handed over to the agency to help win a UI protest.

To get the maximum benefits from your progressive discipline policy, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Make sure that your policy isn’t too harsh- think about steps you can include where the employee can amend their actions/behavior. However, there are exceptions to this rule in situations where employees are making straight-up bad decisions that can cause immediate termination, like failing a drug test, stealing, workplace violence, etc.
  • Document, document, document….each step laid out in the progressive discipline policy. It’s even better if you have forms where the employee can sign and acknowledge their behaviors, too. Failing to document is the leading cause in companies losing UI protests.
  • Make sure that your discipline policy is clearly stated in the employee handbook and that employees are signing off on it. There is no way for a UI agency to hold an employee accountable for a policy they knew nothing about.
  • Send in all documentation with your protest, including the policy that was violated, your progressive discipline policy, signature pages with the employee’s acknowledgment of both, and any other evidence that may help you in your counterclaim.

A progressive discipline policy can greatly benefit your company, especially in helping to lower your UI costs by winning more UI claims. A poorly constructed or implemented policy (or lack of one) is opening the door to unsubstantiated claims from distraught former employees. For more information about how you can improve your progressive discipline policy, visit us online at www.unemploymenttracker.com.