Employee Discipline and Terminations: Company Policies and the Employee Handbook

Employee Discipline and Human Resources PoliciesLawsuits are expensive and time consuming. When employees take legal action, it can also cause emotional discomfort and tension in the workplace. 

In hopes of avoiding any business interruption related to employee discipline, companies may discontinue a relationship with a troublesome employee immediately — but a snap decision can lead to more problems down the road.

Create Human Resources Policies

So, what can employers and human resources managers do to mitigate the risk of a disgruntled employee seeking a lawsuit? The first step is to develop policies and procedures that facilitate accurate documentation. Keeping a detailed record of disciplinary actions will create an objective narrative of the situation and help settle differences whether the claim is handled at the company level or in court.

Company policies created by your human resources department can help prevent a claim before it happens. Employees who are treated fairly and consistently, with documents that answer their questions on harassment claims and the company code of conduct, will feel confident that the company is objective in its use of discipline policies.

Review Your Employee Handbook

The employee handbook can be a great tool for communicating these policies to employees. From topics such as medial leave and sick days to compensation and employee benefits, the handbook is necessary for all employees at any size company. It sets a clear precedent for new hires that begins on their first day and should discuss all aspects of the disciplinary process as a reference for employees.

Most importantly for employers, an “employment-at-will” disclaimer will grant companies the ability terminate an employee at any time for any legal reason. Keep in mind, however, that while employers with this statement can terminate an employee under this clause, it doesn’t always mean they should.


This is the first in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims.

For more information on employee terminations or what to include in your employee handbook, contact your Cornerstone human resources specialist today. You can also view our webinar on the topic hosted by Cornerstone’s Director of Human Resources Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP. 

Topics: HR