Rhode Island Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Rhode Island 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.
For a Limited Time receive a FREE HR Report on the "Critical HR Recordkeeping”.  This exclusive special report covers hiring records, employment relationships, termination records, litigation issues, electronic information issues, tips for better recordkeeping, and a list of legal requirements.  Download Now
The Rhode Island courts have generally rejected implied contract claims based on language contained in employee handbooks. The courts have held that employees cannot legitimately expect that a particular policy will always be followed and remain in effect when they have been notified that the policy is subject to unilateral change by the employer (Neri v. Ross-Simons, Inc., 897 A.2d 42 (2006)).
Nevertheless, while the Rhode Island courts have been fairly conservative in finding implied contracts on the basis of employer policies and statements, if an employer has instituted a progressive discipline policy, it should follow it. Inconsistent discipline, especially when there is a discipline policy, can lead to claims of discrimination and unfair treatment.
For instance, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that an employer's failure to follow its progressive discipline ...

Read more about Discipline