Progressive discipline

How many written warnings is enough before termination?
By Colin Gibson
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/08/2012

Question: Our progressive discipline policy requires a final written warning before termination. If an employee has received a written warning for performance issues and is now being disciplined for threatening a co-worker, can we rely on the prior warning to dismiss the employee, or does the previous misconduct have to be related? Is one written warning enough before dismissal for subsequent misconduct?

Answer: Threatening a co-worker is often a serious form of misconduct, depending on the nature of the threat, the surrounding circumstances and whether or not violence was threatened. In some jurisdictions, a threat of violence is considered equivalent to violence.

If the employee is unionized, you should begin by reviewing the collective agreement to see if it contains any relevant procedural or substantive requirements. If it does, they must be followed. Your next stop should be your discipline policy which, under the principles established in Lumber & Sawmill Workers' Union, Local 2537 v. KVP Co., must be consistent with the collective agreement, reasonable, clear, consistently enforced and communicated to employees. Read the policy carefully and make sure you comply with it.