New Hampshire Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

New Hampshire Discipline: What you need to know

Progressive discipline is a policy in which the severity of the penalty increases each time an employee commits an infraction. Generally, a progressive discipline scale begins with oral reprimands, followed by written warnings, suspensions, and finally, discharge. Progressive discipline procedures are most often found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public sector, but they are also found in the private sector.
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 relationship.
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Despite being fairly conservative in upholding the concept of at-will employment, the New Hampshire courts have held that disciplinary policies created by an employer may be recognized as an offer to modify the at-will relationship between the employer and employees that may be accepted by continued employment.
However, the courts have ruled that an employer can avoid contractual liability by including a disclaimer in its policy stating that it does not intend to create any type of employment contract (Butler v. Walker Power, Inc., 629 A.2d 91 (1993)).
In addition, while or a stray or casual remark regarding job security or other terms or conditions of employment will rarely, if ever, result in the creation of an employment contract, employers would be wise to train their managers to avoid making any such statements.
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