Oregon Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Oregon 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 becoming increasingly common 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 one.
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The Oregon courts have found that progressive disciplinary procedures described in a handbook or similar oral assurances may create contractual rights for employees to be covered by such procedures when being disciplined (Yartzoff v. Democrat-Herald Publishing Co., 576 P.2d 356 (Ore. 1978)).
Oregon courts recognize claims for breach of implied contract based on handbook provisions ensuring job security or practices and procedures that are mutually accepted as binding. However, employers may avoid the creation of implied contracts by including a disclaimer stating that the parties have no intent to form a contract (Brossard v. IBM, 937 F.2d 611 (1990)).
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Policies. Any listing of the kinds of conduct for which an employee can be disciplined should include a statement that the list is not all-inclusive, but ...

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