Discipline in the Workplace

| Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

By Cedric Lamarche

Many people in the workforce often wonder what reasonable consequences or “penalties” employers can impose on employees as a result of performance issues or misconduct.  The answer to this question will vary depending on the circumstances of every case.  That said, employees and employers alike should know that Canadian courts have consistently upheld the legal doctrine of progressive discipline.

Progressive discipline, as the name suggests, contemplates the gradual escalation of disciplinary action by an employer.  Pursuant to this concept, employers should avoid jumping the gun in handing down “penalties”.  For example, if an employee violates a safety policy in the workplace by failing to wear the proper safety gear, it would be unreasonable and unfair for the employer to immediately suspend or dismiss the employee for the infraction.  A court would likely view such consequences as being premature.

In instances where an employee’s performance or conduct is at issue, the employer should clearly provide the employee with the following:

  • An explanation of the problem;
  • The steps that should be taken by the employee to correct the problem;
  • Offer assistance to the employee to help correct the problem;
  • A timeframe within which the problem is expected to be remedied; and
  • The further disciplinary actions that may be imposed if the problem persists.

If followed, this disciplinary model encourages the early detection by management of problems involving employees and the opportunity to address them before they escalate beyond the point of no return.  Further, it allows employees to understand any problems with respect to their conduct or performance and provides them with the opportunity to take the steps required to remedy the situation and maintain their employment.

Progressive discipline implements a process which helps to prevent the premature imposition of disciplinary action by management.  If respected, it decreases the chances of successful wrongful dismissal lawsuits against employers.  If not respected, it provides employees with recourse against their employers.

Cedric P. Lamarche is a lawyer with Whitten & Lublin LLP, an employment law office assisting both employers and employees on various workplace legal matters.


  1. Noma Draughn says:

    hey I like the post. Found this from doing a google search. Ive been looking for this sort of thing for a while. This info will come in handy to me. I will check back soon to search the rest of your blog. thanks

  2. Kasie Saile says:

    hey I like this post. I found it from doing a google search. Ive been looking for this sort of thing for a while. This info will come in handy to me. I will check back soon to search the rest of your blog. thanks

  3. orbit says:

    I am looking for a lawyer right now to give me advice. I was suspended at work for 1 day because of 2 consecutive incidents but the first one was not actually true. The content of the letter have a lots of discrepancies. I didn’t acknowledge or signed the letter but was suspended immediately. Please reply to my email add for advice and future contact.

  4. danlublin says:

    Hi Orbit,

    Sorry to hear about your stressful situation. Thank you for your comment.

    Up front, we must point out that we cannot provide legal advice over the internet or in this manner. We require any client to come in and meet for a formal consultation where our lawyers can discuss with you your legal rights, the law, remedies, and a strategy that ‘fits’ with your situation.

    We do not provide a free consultation. Please contact us at the following information in order to discuss a meeting:

    Whitten & Lublin LLP | Employment Lawyers
    Tel: 416-640-1583
    Fax: 416-644-5198

  5. Labor Law Poster says:

    I think the discipline plays an important part in handling with the employment relationships.Everyone may make mistakes but should have opportunity to correct them.

  6. Federal Posters says:

    Every employer and it’s employee must have a good relationship and have a transparency to each rights so that both of them become more productive and efficient in making a successful institution or company.

  7. Rico says:

    I think this is among the most important information for me.
    And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things,
    The web site style is wonderful, the articles is really nice :
    D. Good job, cheers

  8. rachelle says:

    Hi I have a question I got a write up after one month from the said infraction .. legal??

  9. Mark Corfe says:

    How long can write ups stay in your file?

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