When Disciplinary Action Triggers the Need to Update Policies

Disciplinary Action triggers policy update

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Disciplinary action can sometimes uncover incomplete or outdated policies. This is an opportunity to update these policies. To do this, it helps to have an understanding of how policies have been followed over time. It is also important to develop an effective strategy for distributing updated policies throughout your organization.  

What happens when a disciplinary action triggers the need to update policies?

A recent presentation at the Virtual Washington Employment Law Conference by Jodi Slavik and Kara Craig from Vigilant Law Group illustrated a potential need to review policies when you’ve been working through a disciplinary action.  Using HR document management with version history and approval processes allows for effective policy and procedure management. As they worked through an example of a manager wanting to discipline based on poor attendance, there were red flags raised, especially if the employee is of a protected class.  What if other employees were not disciplined who had similar attendance problems?  Is the written policy that is potentially being violated up to date based on current application?  Did the employee acknowledge the policy, for example by noting that he or she has read the employee manual? Is the real issue the attendance or performance?

How do you find specifics about how policies have been followed over time, and can you show consistent enforcement?

In the unfortunate event of a need to discipline or consider termination, there are important steps to consider before taking action. If you discipline based on an attendance policy, for example, can you show that you have consistently followed this policy with all employees?  Being able to quickly search for examples of other disciplinary actions will let you assess if you have been taking action with employees consistently for the same breech of conduct.  Searching for digital employee files for similar events saves significant time in the evaluation process over digging through multiple employee paper files.

If your policies need to be revised or recommunicated, what is the most effective way to get that information distributed so it is consistent?

If you have found inconsistencies in how policies have been applied or if you have an out of date written policy that is not reflecting the current status, it’s time to make some changes.  Tools that can track changes to a policy, automate the review process, and send the updated policy out for read and acknowledge greatly simplify the process.  From recent case law, we know it’s vital to be able to prove the person did review the policy and to maintain an audit log of what has happened with their copy of the electronic file.  It is important to not only prove that they acknowledged reading the updated policy, but you must also show whether or not they opened the file to read it.

A centralized platform for HR policy management

Electronically storing and distributing everything from employee handbooks, to work instructions, to corporate policies keeps staff informed and made aware of the most current information. HR policy management in Document Locator makes it easy to not only search for employee records, but also see changes to versions of policies over time.


Request an HR Document Management Demonstration to learn more


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