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What Does the Documentation Include?

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Effective Disciplinary Action Policies and Procedures

  • Format: Self-paced
  • Course Duration: 1 hr 1 min
  • SHRM Professional Development Credits: 1.0
  • HRCI General Recertification Credits: 1.0
  • Certificate of Completion (after passing quiz)

Having to discipline, or worse, end an employment relationship is always difficult. Many employers think that just because they are in an “at will” state that they can fire anybody at any time. This is not the case. 

It is absolutely critical you, the HR Professional, and your team understand how to approach these oftentimes tough situations. There are right and wrong ways to handle them. As an HR Professional, you will be involved in and even lead disciplinary procedures. The learning objective is to help Human Resources Pros like yourself partner with managers to handle two of the toughest workplace activities, disciplinary actions and terminations.

You are in the perfect position to ensure employees are treated with respect and your management team operates in both a compassionate and compliant manner. The more you know, the less stress and anxiety you’ll have to overcome. Plus, you’ll be better enabled to train your managers.


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Title: What Does the Documentation Include?
Module: Document, Document, Document
Duration: 4:11

The Disciplinary Action form becomes a living document in many ways. First, it is hopefully used as a tool to coach the employee and help them to be a successful. As soon as you begin to even consider placing an employee on a disciplinary action, you should document as many instances of the behavior as possible. These notes must be carefully maintained and will be helpful when putting the DA together. Remember, all notes are subject to jury review, so be very careful with the language that you use to document.

These forms are placed in the employee’s file and used in a few ways.

First, it can be used to help a manager determine the amount of a raise or a promotion (if there has been some great improvement).

Secondly, it can be used as the foundation for a making a termination case.

And finally, this form may be viewed by the Dept of Labor or the courts if there is ever any kind of legal action taken or DOL unemployment hearings. As a result, these forms are very important and need to be completed properly and reviewed by HR for compliance.

Incident description and supporting details are especially important. Documentation recorded on the form is critical on so many levels and needs to be done right. I teach and remind my managers that the main section of the PIP needs to contain the: who, what, when, where, and why.

Starting with the “who”, whose behavior are we talking about and who was involved in the issue, as well as who else might have observed the behavior.

The what, when and where needs to be described in detail. This includes what exactly happened, the date and time of the issue, and where exactly did it occur? If you are talking about more than one occasion, then each occasion should contain all of the above information.

Finally, the “Why?”. This portion will explain why the negative behavior is not tolerated. It explains how the sub-par performance has a negative impact on the organization, or what is the negative impact of that behavior on the organization.

This portion of the write up may sound like the following:

“On May 12th at 3pm, Chris Jones was seen by Jack Smith and Jane Doe, yelling loudly at a co-worker. He was overheard yelling at the coworker: “You are never allowed to talk to me again and I refuse to work with you on any projects.” This type of behavior is not tolerated by company x,y,z. Our code of ethics and integrity that you signed when joining the company states that we must respectfully work out our differences at work and loud, negative and intimidating behavior is not tolerated. (You would also want to attach to the document the Code of Ethics and Integrity that he signed.)

In addition, this behavior is not tolerated because it can create a hostile work environment, it is considered intimidating behavior and is not how we operate as a business.”

Now we can move on to the performance improvement portion of the DA where we state our expectations very clearly. In the current situation that we are discussing, it might state:

“In the future, if you have a problem or a disagreement at work with a co-worker, manager, team leader, or other employee, you will be required to solve the issue in a positive and respectful manner. This would be in a manner that fits within our corporate culture. In addition, we require you to review 3 modules in our e-learning system about how to handle conflict in the workplace. We would ask that you review these and submit a write-up with what you learned from the video presentation”.

Always include examples of desired behavior and possible solutions for improvement. Remember, our goal is to coach, so use this platform as a model to do just that.

There is often a section here that asks for their input. You could ask for any thoughts or ideas that they might have and add it to the documentation.

The final step is to set a date and time to review their progress and get their signature on the document.


Instructor: Liz LaForte

Liz has been an HR professional for more years than she cares to share! In that time she has seen it all, she has hired them all, let some of them go, stayed on top of the ever changing cultural and regulatory landscape. She has had every difficult conversation a Hollywood writer’s room could cook...

Liz's Full Bio

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HR Jetpack® is an official SHRM Education Partner recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP.

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