Employee Discipline (PHO)
When disciplining employees, the Employer must follow the rules of just cause, and “progressive discipline.”
This means that the Employer must:
- first, determine that you have done something that warrants discipline (just cause),
- then, attempt to have you correct the behaviour through lesser forms of discipline before progressing to more severe forms of discipline.
In cases of serious misconduct in the workplace, such as violent assault or theft, the Employer may have the right to terminate your employment without progressive discipline.
If you experience an incident that you think may be disciplinary in nature, if your Employer informs you that they are investigating allegations of misconduct against you, or if you are being formally disciplined, we recommend you:
- take careful notes of the incident and the Employer’s actions; and
- seek the assistance of a trained AMAPCEO Workplace Representative at Public Health Ontario right away.
Search for a Workplace Representative at Public Health Ontario, and get in touch by email to see if they can help you with your matter.
Workplace Representatives are trained union members who have volunteered to confidentially assist members like you in the workplace. They should be your first point of contact in seeking information and representation with an issue at work. Access to this assistance is important advantage of being a unionized professional.
When your supervisor or another Employer representative notifies you of the need for a meeting related to discipline, they must:
- suggest a time and a place for the meeting, which must be mutually agreeable to both you and the Employer;
- remind you of your right to have a Workplace Representative accompany you—the decision on whether to do this is yours to make; and
- give you up to three working days to find a Workplace Representative to help you.
You may have to contact several Workplace Representatives before you find one available to attend the meeting with you. If you are having difficulty finding a Workplace Representative:
- please contact the AMAPCEO office for urgent assistance; and
- address this with your supervisor or the Employer representative to try to work out a later time when you will have union representation.
Your supervisor or the Employer representative may insist the matter is urgent and the meeting must occur as soon as possible. In this case, you may have to contact several Workplace Representatives to find one available on short notice. If you’re having trouble connecting with one, and are in urgent need of assistance, please contact the AMAPCEO office. You should also address this with your supervisor or the Employer representative to try to work out a later time when you will have union representation.
If you attend a meeting without a Workplace Representative, and the Employer asks you to sign a waiver of your right to representation, only sign it if you voluntarily attended without a Workplace Representative.
If there are allegations of misconduct against you, the Employer will typically follow this process:
Your Employer will usually investigate allegations of misconduct and may invite you to a meeting regarding your alleged misconduct. If the allegations are serious, there may be more than one investigation or fact-finding meeting. You have the right to have an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative accompany you to any investigation or fact-finding meeting. See the right to representation fact sheet for more information.
In most cases, you will have the opportunity to present any mitigating factors that you want the Employer to consider when assessing the discipline to be imposed. A Workplace Representative can help you with this. These could include:
- a lack of any prior discipline;
- satisfactory work performance;
- length of service;
- if the misconduct was impulsive, and not premeditated;
- demonstration of remorse for the misconduct;
- if the harm done was not serious;
- an illness, including addiction or mental health, that may have a link to the misconduct; and
- the likelihood of the misconduct reoccurring or your prospect of rehabilitation.
If the allegations are serious, the Employer may suspend you with pay, pending the results of their investigation.
If the Employer determines there is just cause, they will inform you of how they are disciplining you. Forms of progressive discipline are listed below.
Letter of counsel
The Employer may write a letter detailing your misconduct and your supervisor’s expectations for corrective action. This will not be placed in your personnel file. A letter of counsel is more of an informal warning and is not considered disciplinary.
Verbal reprimand (a verbal warning)
Your supervisor or another Employer representative will meet with you and verbally state their expectations for corrective action going forward. They will warn you that any further misconduct could result in more severe forms of discipline. This is normally the first level of discipline imposed for minor workplace conduct.
Letter of reprimand (a written warning)
In a letter of reprimand, your supervisor or another Employer representative will detail the nature of the misconduct, and their expectations for corrective action going forward. You will receive a copy, and a copy will be placed in your personnel file. The Employer may rely on it later to justify more severe penalties if further misconduct occurs.
The Employer may impose an unpaid suspension that could range from one day to multiple days. Your supervisor or another Employer representative will also give you a formal letter of reprimand indicating that you have been suspended without pay and outlining your supervisor’s expectations for corrective action going forward. A copy of this letter will be placed in your personnel file and the Employer may rely on it later to justify more severe penalties if further misconduct occurs.
This final step in discipline will only be imposed if the conduct is so serious that the Employer feels it necessary to sever your employment, or when prior attempts at corrective measures or progressive discipline have proven unsuccessful and you have shown no potential for rehabilitation.
We recommend you take careful notes of any incident which you may think is disciplinary in nature, regardless if your Employer formally disciplines you or not. If you are unsure, please contact a Workplace Representative at Public Health Ontario.
If you are disciplined, your Employer will place a record of its disciplinary action in your personnel file. You have the right to include your own explanation as an attachment to this record.
All disciplinary records must be removed from your personnel file after three years if your record has remained clear of similar offenses.
If you believe you have been disciplined without just cause or in a manner inconsistent with progressive discipline, you can work with a Workplace Representative to file a Stage One dispute. This must be done within 30 working days.
Search for an AMAPCEO Workplace Representative at Public Health Ontario, and get in touch by email to see if they can help you with your matter.