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Q&A: Can we reduce an employee’s hours as a disciplinary measure?

Question:

Can we reduce an employee’s hours as a disciplinary measure?

Answer: Ophelia, one of our HR Pros says…

I do not recommend reducing hours as a disciplinary measure, as it does not directly address the performance or behavioral issue that the employee is having. Unless reducing hours is already a common practice in your workplace, it could be challenged on the basis of fairness, consistency with your policy, or discrimination. For example, if no other employees have had a reduction in hours for disciplinary reasons, this employee could claim they’re being unfairly targeted and that the discipline was actually a result of their inclusion in a protected class (e.g., if the employee is over 40 years old or believes in a particular religion).

Instead, I would advise that you follow a progressive disciplinary process and put the employee on a performance improvement plan (PIP), addressing poor performance and behavioral issues as soon as they arise. In this case, I recommend that you meet with the employee to discuss the performance and behavioral problems, and document your expectations going forward. Treating the employee consistently with your policy and documenting the steps of the disciplinary/PIP process will be useful if any of your decisions are later challenged by an employee claim.

 

Ophelia has held HR roles in the financial services, healthcare, IT, real estate, and telecommunications industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in Human Resources from Willamette University. A member of SHRM since 2008, Ophelia currently serves as both the Director of College Relations for the Northwest Human Resources Management Association.

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