When you screw up at work, you expect to experience consequences. This is simply a matter of fairness, as employers should have the ability to hold employees accountable. However, there are rules that employers are required to follow when it comes to employee discipline, and I have seen many instances of employers acting unlawfully when doling out punishment.
Progressive Discipline Policies
Generally, employees in California work “at will”, meaning that the employee can quit and the employer can fire an employee without a reason. So if an employee can be fired at will, then why do many employers have discipline policies? This is because it is expensive to recruit, hire, and train employees. It would be incredibly disruptive to business to constantly fire and hire people for the smallest of infractions. In addition, the companies have an investment in their employees which makes it worthwhile to try to rehabilitate, rather than outright fire an employee.
When it comes to the matter of employee discipline, some employers have what is referred to as a “progressive” discipline policy. These generally involve multiple chances with progressively more severe consequences for infractions. There is nothing inherently impermissible about progressive discipline policies; in fact, If applied uniformly, thee policies provide employees with a chance to rehabilitate themselves rather than losing their jobs. In fact, employers even run the risk of creating an implied contract with employees and losing the ability to terminate at will.
Unlawful Employee Discipline
Of course, discipline policies have the potential to go very wrong for employers. There are Federal and State laws that protect employers from discrimination and retaliation. Discipline can therefore cross over from permissible to unlawful in the following scenarios:
- Illegal Discipline. There are whistleblower laws that protect people who file complaints regarding illegal conduct or practices. If you are a reporter or witness to employer misconduct, an employer cannot discipline or take retaliatory employment action against you. Likewise, discipline that results from harassment cannot be allowed to stand.
- Inconsistent Discipline. Certain classes of employees are protected from discrimination. This means that if an employer doles out discipline to one employee in a different manner than another, there are massive red flags of discriminatory conduct.
Let Moss Bollinger Work For You
If you have been the subject of improper employment action, California has highly protective laws that benefit employees. For years, Moss Bollinger has been helping employees stand up against unlawful employer conduct. We can evaluate your situation to determine if you have a claim. We work on a contingency basis and don’t get paid unless you do. Call Moss Bollinger today at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or reach us online.