Our clients sometimes run into a problem employee and want to fire or suspend them for various reasons. They then often come to their Silkin Management Group consultant for advice about what to do. This can be a tricky area as it immediately involves you in labor laws which can be different state to state. In such a case we always tell the client to check with a good employment attorney before doing anything. But there are some definite things that any employer should know about these matters.
The most important thing any office should have in place for proper HR management is office policies that clearly lay out what types of workplace violations result in what types of penalties. The important ones, as covered in the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), concern alcohol and drug use, sexual harassment and other forms of harassment and other violations of state or federal laws and rules. Your policies should explicitly explain what the violations are and the consequences of an occurrence or occurrences of these violations.
For example, you might have an automatic discharge for anyone found to be driving an office vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Or you might have a one week suspension without pay for anyone found guilty of harassing another employee. In most cases you are within your rights to suspend an employee without pay if you have clearly informed them via written policy that whatever the violation they were involved in would result in that consequence. At the same time be aware that suspensions without pay do have their limits. For example, a suspension without pay for quantity and quality of work is a potential employer problem.
Again, as we tell all Silkin Management Group clients, it is imperative that you consult with a good employment attorney when a) formulating your policies to insure they comply with state and local laws and b) when you encounter a potential suspension or discharge situation coming from a prohibited act. If your policies follow proper legal guidelines and you enforce them with everyone in your employ, you will generally be safe legally. If you pick and choose whom to enforce them with you can open yourself up to discrimination charges.
Silkin Management Group’s 400 plus page Office Policy and Job Description Manual can help you by providing example policies and gradients of penalties for policy violations.