Types of Employee Discipline

bizfluent article image

Group of business people working together in the office. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com

Depending on the offense, human resources departments don’t always fire employees after their first disciplinary issue. Instead, they refer to company policy and reprimand the employee for his behavior. Behavior worthy of disciplinary action ranges from dishonesty to sexual harassment. The nature of the offense--reviewed in light with the employee’s disciplinary history with the company--determines the type of disciplinary action that the company will take. Many times, this disciplinary action allows the employee to improve his behavior and reputation through his actions.

Verbal Warning

Often the first disciplinary step that companies take is a verbal warning. Here, a supervisor or human resources manager meets with the employee to discuss the disciplinary issue. During this meeting, the supervisor will express his discontent with the employee’s misconduct and warn her that her behavior is against company policy. In addition, this warning can double as a counseling session, allowing the supervisor to talk about the issue with the employee and identify ways for her to avoid it happening again. Most companies track verbal warnings by including a note in the employee’s personnel file. This helps establish a baseline for the discipline should the employee face another disciplinary issue in the future.

Written Warning

The written warning is the second step in the disciplinary process. After receiving a verbal warning, the supervisor or human resources manager meets with the employee, much like during the verbal warning process. However, this time, the supervisor or HR manager will prepare a written warning that includes a description of the employee’s misconduct. The written warning also includes the supervisor’s name, employee’s name and date of the warning. The supervisor or HR manager asks the employee to read the written warning and to sign it to acknowledge the warning. This statement of disapproval is a more permanent mark on the employee’s record, and it will be in the employee’s personnel file for the duration of his employment.


Before firing an employee for misconduct, a company can choose to suspend an employee without pay to reprimand her for her behavior. In some cases, the company hands down a suspension as it conducts an investigation into the employee’s alleged misconduct. In these cases, the company might ultimately fire the employee should the investigation provide the misconduct allegations are true. The suspension can vary from days to weeks, depending on the offense, according to attorney Anne H. Williams at HR Hero. Even if the company does not conduct an investigation into the employee’s misconduct, it can choose to suspend an employee to give her time to reassess her employment with the company and determine if she wants to stay on.