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Regarding Disciplinary Action Toward an Employee, Is Honesty the Best Policy?

December 16, 2010
Employers are not legally required to give employees the reason for a disciplinary action, such as a discharge.
So, why bother? The employee may become angry or ask difficult questions. Confrontations are never fun. That said, the substantial legal benefits from making the effort to explain a disciplinary action far outweigh the discomfort that may be involved.
When an employee is discharged and no reason is given, the individual is left to make assumptions that may not be accurate. One of those assumptions is that the individual has been discriminated against or subjected to an unfair action.
In that situation, the individual may well think in terms of legal action against the employer. On the other hand, if the employer adequately explains the performance-related reasons for a discharge, most individuals will understand that their performance was substandard and go on to another job.
This issue is particularly important for a staffing service that is often required to remove its employees from an assignment based on the customer's direction. Some staffing customers take the position that if they give a reason to the staffing service for removing an employee from the assignment, it constitutes a form of co-employment to be avoided.
Unfortunately, although the customer's involvement in a disciplinary action involving a temporary employee may have co-employment implications, the temp who is removed from a position without an explanation will have the same reaction as any other employee and will be more inclined to assume that discrimination played some role in the removal. The next step is for the employee to file a discrimination charge against both the staffing service and the customer.
Put simply, honesty is usually the best policy when taking disciplinary action. Please take note that individual situations should be discussed with your HR or legal adviser.
Workforce Management Online, December 2010 -- Register Now!