Indiana Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Indiana Discipline: What you need to know

Progressive discipline is a disciplinary 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. In the past, progressive discipline procedures were most often found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public employment arena, but they have become increasingly common 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.
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Employee handbooks. In most cases a handbook is not considered a contract in Indiana (Orr v. Westminster Village North, Inc., 689 N.E.2d 712 (1997)).
In this case, the court held that an employee handbook cannot create a unilateral contract unless (1) it contains a clear promise so that an employee would believe an offer has been made; (2) the handbook is disseminated to employees; and (3) the employee accepts the offer by beginning or continuing employment. Also, the court said that vague and general policy statements, when weighed against clear and specific disclaimers, do not create a binding contract.
The employees had sued their employer for firing them without following the disciplinary procedures set forth in the company's employee handbook. The court pointed to statements in the handbook that provided that the company could discharge employees without warning. The ...

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