Last month’s tip addressed the importance of documentation and this month I am going to continue that thread by introducing the Progressive Discipline Policy. This policy goes hand-in-hand with the Exit Interview from last month.

The following is a sample of a detailed progressive discipline policy. It includes an explanation of key steps that should be followed to both help the employee succeed and to help avoid provoking lawsuits. It is important to note that documentation is necessary every step of the way, no matter how informal you feel the step is at the time.

Stage One Verbal Warnings
Stage Two Written Warnings
Stage Three Suspension
Stage Four Termination

1. Verbal Warning
Verbal counseling sessions may take place between employees and supervisors in situations that are considered less serious in nature. Every effort to determine and resolve the cause of the problem should be made. At the same time, however, it should be specifically stated that the employee is receiving a formal warning. Supervisors should create written documentation of the verbal counseling session and keep the documentation in the employee’s file and any other departmental or corporate files according to company policy. In addition, the employee should be given a copy of the documentation.

2. Written Warning
Written counseling sessions take place between a supervisor and an employee when the behavior of the employee:

  1. Is a repeated violation and verbal counseling has been conducted,
  2. Impairs the progress of the area in which the employee works, or
  3. Interferes with the progress of the company.

Use write-ups for improvement.
The experience of being written up is usually enough to straighten out many employees. Most people do better after their first write-up, because they realize that you mean what you say and that their job security depends upon them doing their job correctly.

Written warnings should be documented and filed in the employee’s file and any other departmental or corporate files according to company policy. In addition, the employee should be given a copy of the documentation.

3. Suspension
Suspension is a more severe action that may be used to continue while an investigation into the matter is continued and/or as a means for constructive improvement. Suspensions are issued when it is determined that a second warning would not suffice or that an initial incident is too severe for a warning yet not sufficiently severe for dismissal. Suspensions may vary in length, according to the severity of the offense or deficiency. Where a suspension has failed to produce the proper results, consideration should be given for a more lengthy suspension or the dismissal of the employee. Reasons for suspension should be clearly outlined in advance and action on any suspension should be administered consistently.

4. Termination
An employee’s employment may be terminated after other disciplinary measures have failed or when a first-time incident occurs that is extremely serious. An employee may be discharged at any time without regard to any progressive steps if he or she commits an offense for which immediate discharge is specified as a penalty or if, in the company’s judgment, the employee’s continued presence would be contrary to the well-being of the company or its employees. The company’s Department of Human Resources and/or lawyer should be consulted beforehand when the dismissal of an employee is necessary.

5. Employee Dispute Resolution Method
This is a policy to provide a method for work-related dispute resolution to employees who believe that they are affected adversely by the application of a policy, procedure, or practice of the company or a company representative. This can be a policy that requires the owner to become involved in reaching a final determination, or it can extend to a process that involves a mediator or an arbitrator.

Robert Andre is the President of CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.