How to Implement an Effective Discipline Policy in 5 Easy Steps

Be prepared to stop negative employee behavior in its tracks. Establish the right policies and procedures to handle employee discipline before it’s too late.

If you have even one employee then you will have to deal with HR issues. Read on for some key tools, tips and secrets to addressing employee discipline and sleep better at night knowing your business isn’t being held hostage by a few bad apples.

In a recent COSE WebEd Series Webinar, Cheryl Perez, founder and president of BIG-HR, discussed steps to take when an issue needing employee discipline arises in your company.

Have you ever been in a situation where:

  • You are worrying about a few poor performing employees?
  • You are being taken advantage of by employees who are always calling off, running late or performing poorly?
  • You are concerned that an employee might retaliate?
  • You are wondering if a disgruntled employee could negatively impact your business?

Make sure you act fast enough to correct the negative behavior; give yourself the confidence of knowing you’re handling everything right and in the best interest of your business. Follow these five steps.

Step. 1. Set up your workplace rules of conduct. This should be an important feature inside your employee manual. Employees must know they have fair and reasonable notice of expectations. The number one mistake of small to mid-size businesses is they don’t have an effective manual in place or they don’t provide employees with it except on the first day of orientation. And often times it’s not kept up to date. Company rules should be clearly communicated in writing to all employees, must be compliant with state and federal laws, and must be consistently enforced.

Rules of conduct within the manual should include day-to-day matters—such as tardiness, attendance and dress code—and more serious matters—such as violence, theft and harassment.

Perez provided the following tips for your employee manual:

  • Customize it so you communicate exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Communicate your policies clearly and through a formalized training process, preferably on a yearly basis. Review the manual with your entire staff at the beginning of the year. Walk your team through the rules, making sure they have a clear understanding and sign off on it.
  • Meet with your managers separately to communicate the rules so you know they are enforcing your expectations.

And she recommended that it includes information on the following basic policies:

  • Employment-at-will
  • Family medical leave
  • Discrimination
  • Drug-free workplace
  • Social media
  • Political neutrality
  • Disciplinary

Step 2. Establish an investigation procedure. This lets people know you are fair and you are looking into any issues that arise at your company. This is especially good for more serious allegations such as harassment, being under the influence, theft, etc.

If an allegation is brought up against an employee, it should be promptly, fairly and thoroughly investigated. Once the investigation is conducted and you have all information, you then need to make an independent determination of facts and circumstances.

Before you find yourself in a position where you need to conduct an investigation, it is important that you establish protocol. Determine who will conduct the investigation, what process will be used and within what timeframe. Communicate this in advance to everybody on your staff.

Step 3. Understand what an effective progressive action policy looks like. Here is a rundown of the order in which Cheryl recommends taking action.

  • Counseling: “You’ve been late, don’t let it happen again.”
  • Verbal warning: Sit down and give them a formal verbal warning. Let them know what will happen next. Document it, but informally.
  • Written warning #1: Write it up and have another manager or witness sign off on it.
  • Written warning #2: Do everything in the first written warning, but also include a performance improvement plan.
  • Next courses of action

As mentioned in the fourth bullet above, a performance improvement plan can be an important part in taking disciplinary action. Let the employee know that if they don’t follow these expectations then you will move to the next step in the disciplinary process. Spell out the expectations and be sure to give them the opportunity to fix the behavior.

Step 4. Provide employees with the opportunity to appeal. Your policies and procedures regarding employee discipline should include having in place a grievance and appeal process. Doing so makes it clear that your business practices fair discipline and that employees are given the opportunity to appeal decisions. Showing your due diligence and giving them the chance to say why they don’t agree helps to clearly communicates fairness.

Step 5. Determine the next course of action and how to implement it. When you hand out a punishment for a crime, make sure it’s appropriate. Consider the following options:

  • Transfer the employee to a different department or office to get them out of whatever the situation is that is impeding their performance.
  • Demote the employee.
  • Tell them they don’t get pay increases, bonuses, etc.
  • Suspend them with or without pay.
  • Terminate the employee.

The key is to always apply discipline in a fair and consistent manner. Your managers and supervisors must follow the same guidelines. You can’t be fair and consistent as a business owner but then have a supervisor who is showing favoritism. And, be sure that discipline procedures comply with federal and state laws.

Put it in writing

One of the best things you can do during an employee disciplinary process is to document everything. BIG-HR provides its clients with templates and forms for everything they need for proper record keeping.

What happens if you don’t document? You won’t have a leg to stand on. If you do end up with an accusation against an employee you won’t be able to defend yourself. If you’ve done a good job protecting yourself, communicating and documenting, then there is much less of a chance that you and your company will have to settle with the employee no matter what type of situation arises.

To watch a full replay of this webinar, check out the video below. And Be sure to register for the next COSE WebEd Series Webinar on February 20, Using Video to Amplify Your Marketing and Drive Results

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  • Next up: How to Maximize the My Health Plan Experience: Presented by Medical Mutual
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  • How to Maximize the My Health Plan Experience: Presented by Medical Mutual


    If you have a health plan though Medical Mutual, make sure you register for a My Health Plan account. Here are three tips on how to get the most out of your My Health Plan experience:                                                                              

    Take the Health Assessment

    The Health Assessment is a series of questions about total health covering emotional, social, financial and spiritual wellbeing. Your employees will receive a wellbeing score and steps for supporting or improving it. Employees should come prepared to take the assessment with recent medical data including height, weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides and blood glucose.

    Utilize the Health Resource Center

    The Health Resource Center offers extensive educational materials and interactive tools to help your employees gain great insight into their health concerns and conditions.

    Save Money with My Care Compare

    My Care Compare is an online tool that allows Medical Mutual members to compare costs before they get care. This information can be especially helpful for planning out-of-pocket costs if your employees are on a high deductible health plan. This also allows members to get medical procedure, service or treatment costs by provider and service location.

    To register or log in to My Health Plan, please visit These helpful tools can also be accessed through the free Medical Mutual mobile app in the Apple app store or Google Play (search for MedMutual).

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  • Next up: HR Audits: When to Do Them and What to Look For
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  • HR Audits: When to Do Them and What to Look For

    There’s a lot for small businesses to stay on top of as it relates to HR. That’s why an annual audit, perhaps coupled with semiannual mini audits, are so important to ensuring a business is in compliance with applicable laws. Here’s when you should be performing these audits and what you should be looking for.

    As a business leader, I’m sure at some point you’ve asked yourself the question of whether you should conduct an HR audit. With HR having so many different components that are integral to the success of a company, there’s good reason to ask yourself whether your HR practices are as good as they could be.

    From compliance, to health and safety, training and development, recruiting and retention, compensation and benefits, there’s a ton to stay on top of!

    HR Audits can help a company understand the impact its HR practices are having on the organization and help quantify results as well as set the stage for necessary changes.

    While there is a lot to look over, particularly for small businesses, the potential of noncompliance with applicable laws is a significant risk. In this article, we’ll explore when HR audits should be conducted, what to audit, and how they can positively affect the organization overall.

    When to audit

    It’s best to do a full-scale audit once a year at most, given the resources required to perform them. That said, mini-audits conducted throughout the year can be valuable. Given every six months, these mini audits can provide for some level of course correction without too much departmental pain. Company leaders might also want to think about performing an audit following any significant event in the company’s history, such as management changes.

    What to audit

    Consider the weaknesses you’re aware of as it relates to your HR as well as what your available resources are. This should help guide your thinking as to what to audit. Keep a running log of issues that pop up throughout the year that might not be covered by your company’s policies and procedures. This will also help you identify areas you will want to address during your annual review process (or immediately, if need be.)

    Some common areas companies focus on during the HR audit review include issues related to hiring, performance management, discipline or termination.

    Other areas to think about include:

    • Misclassification of exempt and nonexempt jobs: The complexity of wage and hour laws and regulations means that almost every company has job positions that have been misclassified at some point in time. This could expose your business to liability for past overtime.
    • Inadequate personnel files: Reviews of personnel files often find things such as informal, vague or inconsistent disciplinary warnings; ambiguous, inaccurate or outdated performance evaluations; personal health information mixed into these files instead of being kept separate; and more.
    • Prohibited attendance policies: Just as it is with the misclassification of exempt and nonexempt jobs, the complexity of family and medical leave laws can also be difficult for companies to remain in compliance. The records generated by your system are your primary means of defense against wage and hour claims, so time-keeping policies and practices must be clearly communicated and consistently administered.
    • Form I-9 errors: Additionally, inadequate documentation is found around hiring practices, such as missing or incomplete Forms I-9. Employers face fines of between $100 to $1,000 for each failure to accurately complete a Form I-9.

    Kellee Perez is an account Executive at Benefit Innovations Group specializing in analyzing and implementing HR services within small and large businesses.

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  • Next up: Important Update from Ohio BWC!
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  • Important Update from Ohio BWC!

    The deadline for your company’s payroll true-up reports was originally Aug. 15. However, because this is a new process, the Ohio BWC has extended a grace period until Sept. 29 to ensure all employers are able to complete this requirement.

    The deadline for your company’s payroll true-up reports was originally Aug. 15. However, because this is a new process, the Ohio BWC has extended a grace period until Sept. 29 to ensure all employers are able to complete this requirement.

    With the transition to prospective billing, Ohio BWC now requires employers to reconcile their actual payroll for the prior policy year and reconcile any differences in premium paid. The payroll true-up allows Ohio BWC to calculate your premium accurately. Even if your payroll for the year matches the estimate, Ohio BWC provided, or you had zero payroll, you must complete a true-up report.

    The quickest and easiest way to true-up is online with a BWC e-account. If you do not have a BWC e-account, you can create one at Online true-up and payment will also save you money. Eligible employers will qualify for a 1-percent premium rebate, up to a $2,000 maximum rebate. While you can complete the true-up through the BWC call center, wait times may be extremely high. Therefore, Ohio BWC suggests you file your payroll true-up with a BWC e-account.

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  • Next up: Tips for Your Business: Increase Productivity by Reducing Stress
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  • Tips for Your Business: Increase Productivity by Reducing Stress

    Stress in the workforce has become one of the biggest problems in business today. It has been called a global epidemic, with numerous studies encouraging businesses to be more proactive in helping their employees manage stress. “Every day, people deal with stress at work or in their personal lives — or probably both,” says Cindy Ballog, manager of Health Promotion, Wellness and Disease Management for Medical Mutual. “That’s why it’s important for organizations to understand the effect it can have on the health of their employees, and what that means for the future of their business.”

    Stress in the workforce has become one of the biggest problems in business today. It has been called a global epidemic, with numerous studies encouraging businesses to be more proactive in helping their employees manage stress. 

    “Every day, people deal with stress at work or in their personal lives — or probably both,” says Cindy Ballog, manager of Health Promotion, Wellness and Disease Management for Medical Mutual. “That’s why it’s important for organizations to understand the effect it can have on the health of their employees, and what that means for the future of their business.”

    With the high demand and fast pace of today’s work environment, employees at practically every level of an organization are dealing with some level of stress. By providing stress management resources, organizations can help employees be healthier and control healthcare costs. “Healthy employees are often happier and more productive employees,” says Ballog. “In many cases, turnover and absenteeism can also go down.”

    Stress is hard on the body. There are the obvious and immediate effects, such as headaches, upset stomach and loss of sleep. But there are more long-term consequences. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, which makes it tougher to fight off illness, causing people to get sick more often. It’s also linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, heart attacks, anxiety and depression. These conditions and others can worsen as a result of continuous stress. 

    According to Ballog, diet and exercise go a long way. “When your body feels good, your mind often does, too,” she explains. “People often adopt poor eating and lifestyle habits as a form of stress relief, but those habits just make the symptoms worse.” Exercise is another important factor. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can have a significant impact on stress. Even at work, when feasible, Ballog says employees should be encouraged to do things like go for a walk at lunch or use the stairs instead of the elevator. 

    Of course, each employee is different when it comes to stress, with different sources and different effects on their health. Some employers offer classes on relaxation techniques and managing time more effectively. Employees should also feel comfortable discussing challenges and asking for help, which can help reduce stress for those employees and ensure projects are completed on time. 

    “It can be difficult to eliminate all the stress factors in life, but everyone can find ways to understand their stressors and respond to them a little better,” says Ballog. “Helping your employees along in the process could help your business be healthier—both physically and financially.”

    This article originally appeared in the July 20, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

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  • Next up: Increase Workplace Safety with Free Services from BWC
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  • Increase Workplace Safety with Free Services from BWC

    The COSE workers’ comp team at Minute Men HR (MMHR/COSE) is here to help you increase workplace safety by using the BWC’s complimentary safety services. As we reported in February, increased participation in BWC safety programs has led to a decrease in claims filed and overall claims costs. That has resulted in significant reductions in BWC premium rates over the last 8 years with a 20% decrease in base rates for the 2019 policy year—the biggest drop in rates in the history of the BWC.  

    For more information, visit the Ohio BWC website at and select Safety from the pull-down Menu at the top. You’ll be able to register for classes, request a safety consult and learn about safety grants and other programs designed to keep your workplace safe. 

    Green Year Injury – 2 Hour Training Requirement

    Each year, policies enrolled in a group savings program (Group Experience Rating or Group Retrospective Rating) that had a workplace injury during the defined green year period, are required to take 2 hours of safety training to maintain your eligibility to remain in the group program.  Participants in the 2019 MMHR/COSE workers’ comp group programs with workplace injuries between July 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 are required to take the training before June 30, 2020.  We will be sending you a letter this month which will include an explanation of the requirement as well as training options and information about the BWC Learning Center. You have options for completing the training

    1. The BWC Learning Center provides both classroom and online training. 
    2. This is the only BWC training requirement that allows you to use external training – so, if you have internal safety training/meetings or participate in 2 hours of safety/security related training through an outside source, it will satisfy this requirement. 

    Please click here for a link to the BWC Guidelines for Group Rating Training and an FAQ developed by the MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp Team to help you through this process.

    We also want to encourage you to be more active in monitoring and managing your policy (if you aren’t already).  The following action items can help you: 

    1. Set up an e-account on the BWC website (
      1. Pay premiums online through the BWC website and opt to receive your BWC invoice electronically to obtain the Go Green rebate (electronic invoices are required as of 7/1/19)
      2. Check your BWC policy online once a month to stay on top of any changes and make sure you don’t have a balance due.
      3. Make sure your contact information is current – on the BWC website and with your Third Party Administrator (TPA) and Managed Care Organization (MCO) so that you never miss important information. If you have an e-account, but can’t find your login information, you will need to contact the Ohio BWC at 1-800-644-6292 for assistance in resetting your account information.

    The MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp Team is here to answer questions and help you with BWC issues.  Please call us at 216-452-0107 for more information about our programs or for assistance. 

    BWC Group Program 2-Hour Safety Training: Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Why do I have to do this?

    A: The Ohio BWC encourages all employers to maintain a safe workplace. For employers participating in group savings programs that experience a workplace injury during the defined “green year” period are required to take 2 hours of safety training to help maintain a safe workplace and avoid future injuries.

    Q: I did this last year/in a prior year, do I really have to do it again?

    A: Yes. As long as you are participating in a group savings program and experience a claim during the defined green year period, you will be required to complete 2 hours of safety training.

    Q: What is a defined green year period?

    A: Each policy year begins on July 1 and runs through the following June 30. The defined green year is the period of time when claims have not yet entered the experience period and have not started to impact your rates/premiums.  It generally starts 2 years prior to the start of the current policy year and runs 18 months (July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 is the defined green year for the 2019 policy year).

    Q: What are my options for meeting this requirement?

    A: You have several options. You can take advantage of the BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene/BWC Learning Center and take online or in person safety classes. Or, you can utilize external safety training such as CPR/AED/First Aid certification, OSHA training or any specific industry training that is related to safety or security. This is the ONLY BWC safety training requirement that allows you to use external training. Safety Council meeting attendance DOES NOT satisfy this requirement.

    Q: Does the owner have to take the training?

    A: You can designate anyone on staff to complete the training. 

    Q: We have scheduled safety meetings, do those count?

    A: Yes, they can. If the training goes above and beyond expected day to day workplace training. Just be sure to keep a sign in sheet that includes the date, start and end time, topic, speaker and the names/signatures of employees that attended. You can submit more than one sign in/log to meet the 2 hour requirement (if the meetings are shorter).

    Q: Does my safety council meeting attendance satisfy this requirement?

    A: No. Since Safety Council meeting attendance meets the requirement for the Safety Council rebate, it cannot satisfy this requirement.  Neither does BWC training taken for any other program (Industry Specific Training, One Claim, EM Cap, etc).  In other words, you cannot “kill 2 birds with one stone” by taking one class and applying it to more than one BWC program.

    Q: Where do I submit my documentation?

    A: Please submit your documentation to the email address/fax number we will provide in the letter that we send you.

    Q: How do I access the BWC Learning Center?

    A: Instructions are included on the one page information sheet from the BWC that will be included with the letter we send you. You will also receive reminders throughout the policy year to make sure you meet this requirement. You can also access the BWC Learning Center through the BWC website at

    Q: What if I have trouble with the BWC Learning Center?

    A: Since the site is maintained by the BWC, you will need to call the BWC for assistance with your log in or the site in general. We cannot help you with login or system issues. The BWC can be reached at 1-800-644-6292.

    Q: What type of documentation will I get from the BWC Learning Center?

    A: In most cases, you should be able to print a certificate, but you may need to “print screen” and send that as your documentation if you are having trouble printing the certificate. Note the date, time, online course name and policy number when sending the print screen to us.

    Q: When do I have to complete this?

    A: You must complete the 2-hour safety training by June 30, 2020.  We encourage you to complete it as soon as possible so as not to be overwhelmed at the last minute.

    Q: What happens if I don’t complete the 2-hour safety training?

    A: Since this is a BWC requirement, the BWC can disqualify you from participating in group savings programs in the subsequent year. We know that your discounts/rebates are important, so we encourage you to complete the training, and do it as early as possible to avoid paying higher premiums. 

    Q: If I still have questions, where do I call?

    A: For issues related to the BWC Learning Center or website, please call the BWC at 1-800-644-6292.

    If you have questions about the MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp program, please call our team at 216-452-0107. 

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