Hawaii Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Hawaii Discipline: What you need to know

Progressive discipline is a model in which the severity of the discipline 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 in the public employment arena, but they are also found in the private sector.
There are two major issues 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, a progressive discipline procedure can, under certain circumstances, change an at-will employment relationship to a contractual one, whether or not the policy is written. Employee handbooks, company policies, and oral representations have all been recognized as evidence of an implied employment contract.
For a Limited Time receive a FREE HR Report on the "Critical HR Recordkeeping”.  This exclusive special report covers hiring records, employment relationships, termination records, litigation issues, electronic information issues, tips for better recordkeeping, and a list of legal requirements.  Download Now
While the Hawaii courts are fairly conservative in upholding the concept of at-will employment, employers should be cautious about following any procedures promised in writing, particularly in an employee handbook.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has held that if an employer establishes a disciplinary procedure to be followed before an employee is terminated, that policy may be considered an implied contract, and it must be followed. Employers may not selectively abide by policies and procedures they establish in a manual (Kinoshita v. Canadian Pacific Airlines, Limited, 724 P.2d 110 (1986)).
While implementing a discipline policy can lead to possible contractual liability, if an employer has instituted such a policy, it should follow it. Inconsistent ...

Read more about Discipline