Progressive discipline is a disciplinary model in which the severity of the punishment increases each time an employee commits an infraction. Generally, the progressive discipline scale starts with an oral reprimand, followed by a written warning, suspension, and finally, termination. Progressive discipline procedures are most often found in collective bargaining agreements and the public employment arena, but they are also found in the private sector.
There are two major problems with having a progressive discipline procedure in an "at-will" relationship. First, it can be time-consuming to administer the steps and generate the supporting paperwork. Second, in very limited circumstances, a progressive discipline procedure can transform an at-will employment relationship into a contractual one.