Florida Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Florida Discipline: What you need to know

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 commonly found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public employment arena, and they are becoming more popular with private employers.
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 accompanying paperwork. Second, a progressive discipline procedure can change an at-will employment relationship to a contractual one. For example, employee handbooks, company policies, and oral representations have been recognized as comprising components in, or evidence of, an employment contract. This means if a company has a progressive discipline procedure and promises that it will be followed, it should not stray from it or ignore it.
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Florida courts have been cautious about interpreting oral promises as implied contracts and have required the language of such a promise to be quite definite.
For example, a Florida court of appeals has previously rejected an oral promise as a contract, saying since the oral contract did not have a definite term of duration, it could be terminated at the wish of either party (McConnell v. Eastern Airlines, 499 So. 2d 68 (Fla. App. Ct. 1986)).
Many employee handbooks provide formal levels of progressive discipline leading up to discharge. In most states, if such provisions are written in positive ...

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