Texas Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Texas 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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If a disciplinary procedure is promised. The Texas courts are fairly conservative in upholding the concept of at-will employment. Still, employers should be extremely cautious about allowing anyone in the organization to make any promises, whether oral or written, regarding terms and conditions of employment to an employee or applicant.
Employee handbooks. In keeping with a strong presumption in favor of the at-will standard, the Texas courts have generally held that promises contained in an employee handbook or policy manual do not create a contract of employment, especially when the handbook contains a disclaimer.
However, an employee handbook may modify that relationship if it expressly limits the employer's right to terminate an employee (Williams v. First Tennessee National Corp., 97 S.W. 3d 798 (TX Ct. App. 2003)).
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