Ohio Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Ohio 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. Progressive discipline procedures are most often found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public employment arena, but they are becoming 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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If a disciplinary procedure is promised. While Ohio courts are fairly conservative in upholding the concept of at-will employment, employers should be extremely cautious about allowing anyone in the organization to make any promises to an employee or applicant. It is not necessary to have a written policy in order to create a contractual obligation to follow a disciplinary procedure. A progressive discipline procedure that has been consistently followed for a reasonable amount of time may also be considered a “contract” and binding.
Ohio courts have said that facts and circumstances surrounding an oral employment-at-will agreement, including the character of the employment, custom, the course of dealing between the parties, company policy, or any other relevant factor, should be considered in order to determine the agreement's explicit and implicit terms concerning discharge.
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