Washington Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Washington 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 also common in the private sector.
There are two potential 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. The Washington courts have generally declined to find or enforce implied contract claims that are based solely on an employer's oral assurances or representations regarding an employment relationship. An employee may, however, bring a successful lawsuit for an implied contract if he or she can show that the oral promise was specific and that the employee justifiably relied on the promise.
While a casual or stray remark regarding job security will rarely, if ever, result in the formation of an employment contract, employers should remain cautious. Managers and supervisors should be educated as to the employer's commitment to the at-will standard and instructed to refrain from making any contrary representations.
Employee handbooks. Despite a strong presumption in favor of the at-will standard, the Washington courts have held that promises of specific ...

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