In Fulton v. ODJFS (11/3/11) [pdf], the employee argued that he was entitled to recover unemployment compensation because his employer failed to follow its own progressive discipline policy when terminating him. The court disagreed, noting that the employer’s policy granted discretion to impose any level of disciplinary action—ranging from verbal warning, written warning,
suspension, or immediate termination of employment—depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Reading this, one might conclude that because progressive discipline policies are unnecessary they should be avoided. In fact, the contrary is true. Progressive discipline (with sufficient discretion built in) provides an early warning system to employees. While I have no empirical data to back me up, I would bet that employers who use progressive discipline systems face fewer lawsuits from terminated employees. Those that perceive fair treatment should be less likely to sue than those who perceive that they had the rug pulled out from under them.