Maine Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Maine Discipline: What you need to know

Progressive discipline is a disciplinary model in which the severity of the penalty increases each time an employee commits an infraction. Generally, a progressive discipline scale begins with an oral reprimand, followed by a written warning, suspension and, finally, discharge. Progressive discipline procedures are most often found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public sector, but they are becoming increasingly common in the private sector.
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There are two major problems with having a progressive discipline procedure in an "at-will" employment relationship. First, it can be time-consuming to administer the steps and generate all the accompanying paperwork. Second, a progressive discipline procedure can, under certain circumstances, transform an otherwise at-will employment relationship into a contractual one.
In Maine, for an employee to prevail on a breach of contract claim based on his or her employer's oral promise of multiyear employment, the employee must show fraud on the part of the employer (Stearns v. Emery-Waterhouse Co., 596 A.2d 72 (ME 1991)).
In this case, a 50-year-old employee resigned from his job in another state and moved to Maine for a new job in reliance on his employer's promise that he would be employed until he reached the age of 55. After 2.5 years, the employer terminated him.
While acknowledging that the employee relied on the promise of continued employment when he resigned from his former job and moved to take the new job, the Maine Supreme Court rejected the employee's breach of contract claim. The court reasoned that the employee failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that the employer acted fraudulently. Absent such a showing, the ...

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