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Reducing The Risks Of Employee Termination: Part 2— Corrective Action Memos & Meetings

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No business looks forward to addressing an employee’s behavior or work when it doesn’t meet company standards, but there are times when it can’t be avoided.

In these instances, it is important to document any corrective action taken with an employee of your business. When corrective action is initiated, it should be documented in a written Corrective Action Memo from the employee’s supervisor. The employee and the supervisor should both receive and retain a copy of the corrective action memo and the original should be sent to human resources for placement in the employee’s personnel file.

An effective Corrective Action Memo should include the following:

  • The action being taken (i.e., first-level warning, second-level warning, suspension or termination)
  • The specific violation or problem for which the action is being issued (e.g., performance, behavioral issues or attendance)
  • Specific instances of problem behavior or violations, including dates and times
  • Review of past counseling discussions or corrective action steps
  • Description of the impact of employee’s behavior on organization or workgroup
  • Statement of expectations and established timeframe for corrective action to be achieved
  • Description of consequences (e.g., if this step fails, you may be subject to further corrective action up to and including termination of employment).
  • Referral to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if appropriate/applicable
  • Supervisor’s signature
  • Employee’s signature (including the following statement: “Employee signature does not necessarily indicate their agreement, but only that they have received this memo.”) — If the employee declines to sign it, this should be noted on the memo

A Corrective Action Memo should be written with language that can be easily understood by the employee, and be stated in a factual and objective manner.

Note: Generally, if an employee maintains an acceptable level of behavior for six to 12 months, the Corrective Action Memo should be removed from the personnel file. Every company should have an established and consistently implemented policy and procedure that reflects this practice.

Planning A Corrective Action Meeting

Before the meeting:

Conduct a thorough investigation of the incident or issue, including interviewing the employee or any individuals who witnessed the incident or have first-hand knowledge of the performance problem. Be aware that if requested by the employee, a co-worker may be present during any investigatory interview. Any questions on this issue should be directed to your human resources contact.

Review any notes you have made regarding the problem, including supporting documents, copies of previous corrective action memos, attendance records,
or informal notes on counseling sessions. If suspending or terminating the employee, review plans with your supervisor and/or human resources.

Prepare a draft of the corrective action or termination memo and an outline of the points you need to cover during the meeting. Anticipate questions that the employee will likely ask, and be prepared with answers or a commitment to get back to the employee if the answer is not known.

Plan to meet with the employee in a private area, conference room or office. Time the meeting when the employee is least likely to be confronted by co-workers, especially if a suspension or termination is being done. Most often, the end of a workday and the end of a work cycle is preferred.

During the meeting:

  • State the specific problem in terms of desired job performance as compared to actual job performance
  • Review previous counseling sessions or corrective action steps that have been taken
  • Give the employee a chance to respond and explain
  • Describe for the employee the specific change in job performance you expect
  • Ask the employee to confirm his or her understanding of your expectations
  • Tell the employee the corrective action step you are taking (i.e., first-level warning, second-level warning, suspension without pay, or termination).
  • Indicate your confidence in the employee’s ability to perform properly in the future, if appropriate
  • Review the corrective action procedure and the consequences if stated expectations are not met
  • Remind the employee of EAP, if appropriate/applicable, and how they can access those services
  • Give a copy of the signed corrective action memo to the employee

After the meeting:

  • Briefly summarize the meeting in writing for your files with factual comments and examples of what occurred
  • Forward the original corrective action memo to human resources
  • Monitor the employee’s performance and maintain open communication with the employee
  • Give the employee the opportunity and the support to correct the problem

In the last part of our Reducing the Risks of Employee Termination series, we’ll cover how EAP may be helpful prior to termination and will discuss the final steps in the process.