What Is a Disciplinary Action?

A disciplinary action is a corrective or punitive measure officially taken in response to employee misconduct, rule or policy violation, or poor performance.

What Are the Types of Disciplinary Actions?

Disciplinary actions come in many forms ranging from soft to severe. The type of disciplinary action taken for a given situation depends on many factors, including seriousness, repetition, and impact. Types of disciplinary actions include:

  • Verbal warning;
  • Corrective action;
  • Written warning;
  • Disciplinary meeting with supervisors or HR professionals;
  • Performance improvement plan;
  • Temporary pay cut;
  • Loss of privileges;
  • Suspension (definite or indefinite);
  • Demotion;
  • Termination.

What Types of Behavior Can Lead to Disciplinary Action?

Disciplinary actions are typically rooted in the policy of any given company. Thus, depending on the context or the employer, disciplinary policies may be more or less strict. For example, law firms are likely to have stricter rules of conduct regarding customer interactions or the dress code.

No matter the disciplinary policy, certain behaviors should always result in disciplinary action, and may lead to criminal liability. These include:

  • Threats or acts of violence;
  • Sexual harassment or assault;
  • Fraud;
  • Theft;
  • Discrimination based on protected personal characteristics.

How to Write a Disciplinary Action Letter?

Disciplinary action letter should be written in a clear and neutral manner. Such documents commonly include:

  • The date of the warning;
  • The subject of the warning;
  • The name of the parties involved;
  • The details about the misconduct or violation of the disciplinary policy;
  • The reasons that led to the warning;
  • The disciplinary action that will be taken by the company;
  • Information about the challenge process;
  • The signature of the supervisor.

What Are Examples of Disciplinary Actions?

Disciplinary actions can range from soft to severe depending on the seriousness of the misconduct.

For example, an employer may issue a simple verbal warning to an employee who is late for work for the first time.

An employee who is systematically late for work may instead face termination if the issue has been raised multiple times (verbal warning, written warning, corrective actions, suspension, etc.). 

More serious offenses may not call for progressive consequences and can instead lead directly to the termination of the employee. Such offenses include sexual assault, theft, fraud, etc.

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