As employers, there are many disciplinary actions you can take against employees. Employee suspension is one of those actions, but it's not always easy to keep employee suspension legal.
Disciplinary actions are usually the first step leading up to a dismissal or firing. But once an employer starts treading those waters, the employer needs to plan carefully.
Wrongful dismissal lawsuits are a huge pain to a company and can be a huge drain to company as well. They can drain not only money, but also precious human resources as they require employees to be pulled away from their work to participate in investigations, depositions and sometimes even trial.
On top of it, they're really bad for publicity.
So when disciplining an employee, employers need to play it safe. Here are three tips on keeping employee suspensions legal:
Have a written policy. Written disciplinary policies help protect you from allegations of unfair treatment. If an employer treats all disciplined employees in accordance with the policy, it becomes very hard for one disciplined employee to say that he was treated differently from another one. This protects the company against allegations of discrimination.
Decide whether to pay or not to pay. An unpaid suspension could be seen as a temporary firing. The key is whether the employee is exempt or non-exempt. For exempt employees, an unpaid suspension is trickier than it is for a non-exempt employee. An employer may not make improper deductions from the salary of an exempt employee.
Don't suspend the employee indefinitely. Your policies should have something written out about how long an ordinary disciplinary suspension should last. If the suspension goes on too long, the suspension might be seen as a dismissal. In any event, federal law requires that employees be suspended in increments of a day (i.e. no half-day suspensions).