A progressive disciplinary policy can help employees improve their performance and help you support your termination decisions if performance does not improve. However, when new employees do not meet your expectations, you may want to have shorter than normal disciplinary procedures so that you do not prolong a bad hiring decision. As a general rule, most employers that have a progressive discipline policy with a multi-step process typically do not apply these procedures to new employees. Instead, the introductory period is intended to allow employers to evaluate new employees quickly, and the new workers are expected to be on their best behavior. Accordingly, a lengthy disciplinary process may only prolong a bad hiring decision.However, you still should follow appropriate procedures to ensure that any termination or disciplinary action is warranted and to limit potential legal claims. For example, you can modify your normal disciplinary process so that a new employee is still informed about any performance problems, but is given a shorter time period to improve.

As far as documenting your decision, HR experts generally suggest that you give employees the reasons for their terminations and that these reasons be supported in the employee files. All records should be factual and accurate, should not contain vague or irrelevant comments, and should include documentation that supports your decision. For example, in this situation, the file should include specific information regarding the employee\’s performance deficiencies, recommendations for improvement, and her failure to meet these recommendations. At the termination meeting, the employee should be asked to read the file, add any comments, and then sign it. A memorandum concerning everything that was said at the meeting, including any unwillingness to read or sign the file, should be prepared and placed in the file.

Remember, too, that if you do not provide the employee with any rationale for the termination or if you try to \”soften the blow\” by suggesting that \”things just aren\’t working out,\” you could face claims of discrimination or wrongful discharge since the employee will be more likely to assume that you are hiding an unlawful reason for the termination.

Reprinted with permission from HR Matters E-Tips, copyright Personnel Policy Service, Inc., Louisville, KY, all rights reserved, the HR Policy and Employment Law Compliance Experts for over 30 years, 1-800-437-3735. Personnel Policy Service markets group legal service benefits and publishes HR information products, including the free weekly electronic newsletter, HR Matters E-Tips (www.ppspublishers.com/hrmetips.htm). This article is not intended as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate legal or other professional advice.