Disciplinary laws and actions are actions taken by an employer to address and correct an employee’s misconduct or performance issues. These actions may include a verbal or written warning, a performance improvement plan, a suspension, a demotion, or even termination of employment.

Employee Disciplinary Laws And Action: What You Need To Know

The HR department of your organization is responsible for initiating disciplinary action proceedings against your employees. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as poor behavior or poor performance. Understanding why organizations take corrective or punitive actions can help you understand how important they are in maintaining internal discipline and avoiding larger issues that can disrupt business operations and damage your organization’s reputation.

In this article, we’ll answer the question, What are disciplinary laws and actions? and why your workforce needs to take them. We’ll also look at what are proper disciplinary actions, what are their goals, and when you should take them.

Meaning of Disciplinary Laws and Action

It may be helpful to know the answer to the question “What are Disciplinary actions?”.

Disciplinary actions are corrective measures that an organization may take against an employee through its human resources department. These actions take when an employee’s work performance is poor. When an employee has engaged in unacceptable workplace behavior, or when an employee has violated workplace policies.

Most organizations have a disciplinary policy in place, and they communicate these guidelines to their employees in a way that is clear and understandable. They take reasonable and consistent action that is proportional to the violation, and they may follow a particular order of progression.

The initial action may be to issue a verbal or written warning to the employee to stop or rectify the issue.

The HR department may then suspend the employee with/without pay, demote the employee, create a performance plan for the underperforming employee, and monitor the employer who has received a warning for aggressive or inappropriate behavior.

If no improvement or correction is made, the employee may fire. Most organizations maintain a record of their disciplinary actions as evidence in the event of a lawsuit.

Definition of Disciplinary Laws and Action

According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM);

It is a management tool used to ensure compliance with company policies and procedures. It is the process of enforcing the rules and measures of behavior expected of employees and dealing with the consequences of non-compliance.

According to Gary Dessler, author of HRM;

They refer to the process of reworking or enforcing certain behavior or actions by employees that deem improper or harmful to others in the workplace. It involves a range of corrective actions, including verbal and written warnings, suspension, demotion, or termination of employment.

Types of Disciplinary Laws and Action

Disciplinary action primarily see as a corrective measure to prevent future misconduct or poor performance


This is the least intense form of disciplinary law and action. It usually gives for a minor offense. It is very lenient and can give orally or written. Verbal warnings give when a minor offense commit. If a verbal warning does not result in the desired result, the organization will resort to a written warning for more severe action. These warnings have no impact on the employee’s status or wages within the organization.

Written Notice

When a warning doesn’t work and the employee continues to engage in the same misconduct, a written notice is issued, which implies a certain level of punishment.


This type of disciplinary action is temporary. An employee suspends from performing their duties for a specified period, which may range from a few days to several months depending on the type of misconduct.


This type of action only uses when an employee fails to meet his current job requirements and standards. If he is unable to provide good performance on the job, he demotes one rank below his current rank within the organization.


This type of punishment is where the amount of the fine deducts from an employee’s remuneration. If an employee repeatedly breaks any rule, a penalty imposes on the employee.

Pay Cuts

If an employee causes any loss or damage to the organization’s property or takes leave without permission. They will not pay their full compensation and the amount of the loss or damage will deduct from their pay.

Holding Increments

This is a major punishment. An employee is close to receiving their increment but because of disciplinary action, their annual increment is held for some time.

Termination of Services

This is the severe punishment that disqualifies an employee from their job. This is the final stage of disciplinary action where there is no other way for an employer to punish an employee.

Stages in Disciplinary Laws and Action

Preliminary Investigation

The first step in the process is to conduct a preliminary investigation into the allegations of misconduct. This involves gathering information from various sources, such as witnesses to the alleged incidents, and preparing an investigation report.

Issue of charge sheet

If misconduct alleges, the management will then issue a written charge sheet. This charge sheet is the formal statement of accusation and is legally binding on the employee accused.

Meet with accused

Once the charge sheet has been issued, a meeting with the accused should schedule. The accused should allow explaining the reasons for the misconduct. There may be something else going on that does not being disclosed in the investigation.

Notice of Inquiry

If the employee responds to the charge sheet in the affirmative, the employer will immediately punish him without further investigation. If he denies the charges, the employer will proceed with a full-blown inquiry.

Full-blown inquiries

When an employee denies the charges, a full-blown investigation is conducted in which all the details examine by the investigator. Various witnesses interview and the timeline was monitored.

Findings of the Inquiry

The investigator should, after a thorough investigation, determine whether the allegations made against the employee are correct or not.

The final decision of punishment

If the investigator finds that the employee has been charged with a crime, the employer or legal authority may punish him or her. The punishment may vary depending on the seriousness of the misconduct. The punishment may be a temporary one, such as suspension or a monetary fine. Or if the misconduct warrants a severe punishment, the employee’s service may terminate.

The punishment should be notified to the employee in the form of a letter. The letter should include the charge sheet, details of the investigation, findings of the investigation, decisions are taken, and the effective date of the punishment. However, if the employee believes that the investigation was inadequate or that the action taken was unreasonable, he may file an appeal to have his case reconsidered.

Characteristics of Effective Disciplinary Laws and Action

Corrective rather than punishing

Rather than punishing employees, the primary goal of a discipline system is to correct behavior and keep employees performing at their best. Employees will feel more at home in the organization and will motivate to comply with the organization’s rules and regulations.

A progressive disciplinary approach

The goal of a progressive disciplinary approach is to provide employees with the opportunity to correct their behavior. This approach begins with a moderate corrective action taken at the beginning and escalates in severity as the employee’s behavior continues to be inappropriate. Employees give enough time to fix their behavior and they don’t take it lightly.

Follow: The Red Hot Stove Rule

The “Red hot stove rule” states that any delay in taking disciplinary action defeats the purpose of taking disciplinary action. Disciplinary action must have the same characteristics and effects as touching a hot stove

The hot stove rule draws a connection between touching a hot stove and breaking the rules of discipline. If someone touches a hot stove, the following are the consequences that can result from disciplinary action.

  1. Disciplinary action must take immediately: Delayed disciplinary action ruins the whole purpose of taking it. It leaves the accused wondering why they are being disciplined. It also lowers the morale of other employees. Who is always following the organization’s rules and regulations?
  2. It serves as a warning: Because the person can feel the heat if they come close to the hot stove, it serves as a warning to them that if they come closer and touch the hot stove, they may burn themselves.
  3. It provides uniform discipline: The hot stove burns everyone who comes near it. So it provides uniform results without any exceptions.
  4. It burns people without bias: Disciplinary actions are impersonal, just like a hot stove burns anyone who comes near it without any bias.

Supervisory training

When and how disciplinary action needs to use, supervisors and managers must train. It requires a certain level of judgment and communication skills when dealing with disruptive employees.

In addition, disciplinary decisions made by trained supervisors will see as fair by employees and managers, as they will follow fair and well-informed practices when taking disciplinary action

Disciplinary action should be equitable

All employees should punish equally for the same offense. There should be no bias or favoritism when deciding on disciplinary action against an offender. If there are different punishments for the same offense, it would be partiality.

Disciplinary action must be immediate

Effective discipline must be immediate. The longer it takes for an employee to discipline for a misconduct offense, the more likely they are to take it lightly and move on.


Employees must make aware of what constitutes good conduct and the consequences of their misconduct.

Once disciplinary action has been taken, follow-up should conduct to see if there is any change in the employee’s behavior and if there is any improvement.

What are the goals of Disciplinary laws and action policies?

The main goals of disciplinary laws and action policies are to:

  • Set and maintain uniform, fair, and appropriate standards of work-related behaviors and performance.
  • Educate employees about these established standards and how they relate to the organization’s mission, values, and vision.
  • Recommend disciplinary measures and remedial actions that can take by the organization. If employees fail to comply with the established standards of behavior and performance.
  • Monitor employees with a record and determine if they are taking warnings seriously and are changing their behavior or performance to meet the standards.

What are the conditions for taking disciplinary laws and actions?

The organization may take disciplinary actions against its employees in the following circumstances:

  • An organization has clearly stated its expectations for workplace behavior and performance in the employee handbook
  • An organization has provided training workshops on appropriate workplace conduct
  • The organization posted posters about its workplace policies on its premises
  • An organization has created a workplace culture and environment that encourages appropriate behavior and work performance
  • An organization ensures that all employees have access to, and are aware of, workplace rules and regulations
  • The organization’s competent authority documents cases of misconduct or poor work performance, and refers these records for disciplinary action to the department head or the human resources department
Employee Disciplinary Laws and Action How to be Know Image
Employee Disciplinary Laws and Action: How to be Know; Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

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