Wisconsin Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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. While an isolated or casual remark will rarely, if ever, give rise to an implied contract, employers should train their managers and supervisors to avoid making any statements or promises regarding job security or termination procedures that would limit an employer's ability to terminate an employee at will.
Employee handbooks. Wisconsin courts have stated that handbooks cannot create a contract by implication alone. Rather, a handbook will alter an at-will relationship only if it contains express language inferring that the employer and employee intended to form a contractual relationship.
In addition, the state courts ...

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