Ensuring employee discipline is a responsibility of the HR department which formulates a policy that guides ethical behavior of all employees. The policy aims at managing and controlling unethical behavior among employees, as well as protecting other employees from the effects of unethical conduct by some. Therefore, employee discipline is a policy that stipulates the rules of general behavior and performance that employees are required to abide by, in order to ensure fairness, equitability, and consistency in the manner in which all the stakeholders are treated (Paterson & Deblieux, 2002). Employee discipline policy aims at mitigating misconduct, such as absenteeism, drunkenness, substandard performance, violation of policies and procedures, harassment, fraud, bribery, etc. The policy outlines the disciplinary action to be taken for misconduct, which depends on the seriousness of the offense, employee history at work, and the number of offenses involved. This paper will discuss the different dimensions of employee discipline in general and employee discipline policy at FedEx.

Employee Discipline at FedEx

Formal Discipline Policies and Their Applications

Human resource managers often start a formal disciplinary procedure with a formal verbal warning for minor offenses, although the warning is recorded in the employee’s file, but for about six months. The oral warning often works in deterring further misconduct. If the nature of the offense is serious or repeated, the HR personnel issues a written, formal warning, and this too is recorded in the employee’s file and remains effective for about twelve months. The final written warning, more often than not, is effective because the employee is prompted to take caution to avoid dismissal (FL Memo Ltd., 2006). Dismissal and applying sanctions are radical actions taken when an employee fails to change his/her behavior. Sanctions include demotions, transfers and suspension, among others.

Fedex Formal Discipline Policies

FedEx adheres to a fair discipline policy to be able to identify and address employees’ problems, and it is applicable to all employees whose behavior elicits reason for disciplinary action. The policy recommends different disciplinary action for different misdemeanor, and the code of ethic applies to all FedEx staff. For instance, an employee who tossed a customer’s monitor over the fence was transferred to another department, where he does not interact with customers directly. Therefore, a transfer to another department is one way in which FedEx disciplines poor work quality. The company’s code of ethics prohibits any form of harassment, and such issues are addressed through a formal written warning.

The company does not tolerate employees who risk their lives in order to get results. The code of conduct requires employees who feel their duties are hazardous, and no precautionary measures have been taken to counter this, to report to the FedEx Alert line (FedEx Code of Ethics, 1971). Employees who do not turn up for work get a verbal warning for the first time followed by a written warning if it happens again. Theft is considered drastic, and depending on the gravity of the case, an employee could get suspension leave as management deliberates the next move, or he could be terminated immediately.

At FedEx, everyone is responsible for ensuring that the code of ethics is adhered to, so they are indirectly involved in ensuring employee discipline is upheld. For instance, employees partake in raising disciplinary issues they might have observed among their peers through the FedEx Alert line. However, the execution of disciplinary policies is the prerogative of the HR department and management team (Commerce Clearing House., & Commerce Clearing House, 1971).

Fedex Informal Discipline Policies

Employees who have had an outstanding performance, but all of a sudden change because they are going through a phase, may get informal verbal warnings. However, informal verbal warnings are given for minor offenses, such as coming late and low levels of tardiness.

Legal Implications for Organizations As They Relate To Discipline Policies

Organizations get embroiled in discipline policies-related litigation every now and then. The main causes are discharging discipline contrary to legal provisions and contravening the employment contract in the process of discharging discipline. Managers can protect themselves from legal suits related to these two matters by using clear language in the contracts; using the words ‘not exhaustive’ when listing; choosing words wisely when drafting contracts with avoidance of the word “permanent”; issuing employee handbooks to staff members, among others (DelPo & Guerin, 2012).

Lawsuits surrounding employee discipline policies could taint the company’s reputation, if not handled with caution. Legal battles tend to be costly since the company has to pay its attorney to follow up on the case, in addition to taking off attention from other weighty issues.

Dispute Resolution Process

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Parties engaged in some form of conflict could choose to resolve it rather than go to court, a process known as dispute resolution. Arbitration is the most common dispute resolution process because it uses a neutral person as the arbitrator. Parties experiencing a hard time picking an arbitrator can approach the American Arbitration Association for help. The arbitration process is often preferred because it ensures that the grievance is settled; there is no disruption in work activities as a result of the dispute; and it is affordable (Eaton, 1999).

Mediation is the second method of dispute resolution. In this process, the two sides get a mediator to preside the resolution process, but he has no prerogative to make the final decision if the two parties do not get to an agreement. Two warring parties can seek mediation services from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. However, mediation has not proved to be effective because it does not guarantee that the two parties will resolve the issue (Eaton, 1999).

Evaluation used a third party who obtains facts to determine the likely outcome if the two rivals decide to go to trial. The party that is likely to lose may opt for out-of-court settlement to save time and money it would have wasted if the case was to go on trial (Van, 2005).

Outplacement Counselling and Employee Assistance Programs

Outplacement counselling is a program offered to individuals who are out of employment to help them capitalize on their skills and experience to find a new job. Spouse counselling could form a part of outplacement counselling when the spouse of the client is invited to attend at least one session (RSM McGladrey Inc, 2008). Involving the spouse opens an avenue through which he/she can support the client through the job searching process.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are programs supported by an employer with an aim of helping troubled employees overcome their personal and work problems in order to remain productive (RSM McGladrey Inc, 2008). EAPs experts assess, counsel, and make referrals for professional help where necessary to help employees overcome personal and work-related challenges. EAPs are effective in increasing job morale and productivity, easing absenteeism, and reducing health care costs.

FedEx works together with Families First Partnerships to train employees, and create schedules that enable them balance their work and family life. This initiative has made it possible for such participants to be productive, and remain actively engaged in the lives of their families (Business Participation on Welfare-to-Work, 1999).

How Formal Discipline Policies Protect Organizations from Litigation

Majorities of companies have adopted progressive discipline measures because they give a clear outline of what the company expects from the employee with respect to behavior at work, and the consequences that may arise from flouting the code of ethics policies. Through formal discipline policies, an organization can safeguard itself from litigation because the records show cause for disciplinary action taken on an employee, which makes it easier when defending the company if the employee is terminated and files a suit against the employer (Johnson, 2011). Organizations that ensure caution when drafting and implementing progressive discipline policies tend to mitigate employers' liability.

FedEx employs a variety of formal disciplinary policies to mitigate its liability and improve employee performance. For instance, an employee who tossed a customer’s monitor over the fence was immediately transferred to another department, where he does not interact with customers directly. The company also terminated a driver after a lawsuit filed against him in which he was accused of sexually harassing women in his department.

Companies engage various discipline policies to protect themselves from litigation. A company’s code of ethics and employee handbook protects an employer from defenses litigation because they are binding contracts that an employee is supposed to adhere to as part of the organization. Conducting exit interviews and having employees sign employment contracts shield the employer from lawsuits arising from the contract and promissory estoppel violation. Written, formal policies protect an employer from discrimination claims filed against the employer because they outline the reasons for the disciplinary action.

Progressive discipline policies have become a key responsibility of HR departments to ensure that the organization is protected from litigation, and to increase employee productivity. Organizations use informal and formal discipline policies, but most of them prefer formal policies to avoid employer liability. Some of the formal policies include demotions, transfers, written and oral warnings, termination and suspension, among others. Companies that find themselves in court tussles with their employees may choose to use dispute resolution procedures, such as arbitration and mediation, to save time and money.

FedEx has managed to shield itself from employer litigation through such formal policies. The company also engages its employees in employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help them overcome personal problems that could jeopardise their productivity. In general, FedEx is an example of a company that has applied discipline models successfully to keep its employees productive and healthy, while protecting itself from employer liability. 

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