Question: We want to suspend an employee to get his attention.  What do you think?

John has been late a number of times over the last six months. His supervisor has given him a verbal warning, and a written warning. He’s been warned that one more tardy this month and he’ll be suspended – that should get his attention!  (Please note: If the late arrivals are for reasons which may be protected by the federal Family Medical Leave Act, California Family Rights Act, federal Americans with Disabilities Act, workers’ compensation, pregnancy or any number of protected leave, call your HR Consultant before you proceed.)

Today, John is 20 minutes late. His three day suspension is automatic.

Answer: What’s the point? This suspension is harder on the employer than the employee in many cases.

John gets three days off without pay, while his employer loses him for even more time than he’s already missed.

There are no requirements or laws for private sector employers (outside of a collective bargaining agreement) to give progressive discipline or increasingly severe penalties (usually noted as a verbal warning, then written warning, followed by suspension) before an employee is demoted or terminated.

Of course, giving the employee some “feedback” that he’s veering off course, including the expectations and consequences is usually recommended. Rather than a multiple day suspension many employers give the employee a final written warning and a day of “decision making” leave. In any case, losing the employee’s productivity is not beneficial to the employer (hasn’t he already missed enough work?) and will not further support the employer’s decision to terminate the employee.

We typically recommend suspending an employee as part of discipline for a very short period of time (one day and generally not exceeding three days), and always providing a specific end date to the suspension.  When suspending exempt employees you must continue paying the exempt employee his/her salary if the suspension is for less than a full workweek.

Suspension pending an investigation or drug/medical test results may run longer, but the employee should be kept in the loop as to the expected return to work date.

A word of caution when terminating after suspension, the Labor Commissioner views the last day of work as the day the employee should receive his/her final paycheck.  If an employer suspends an employee then terminates him/her, the employer should consider the time spent on suspension as waiting time and pay the employee through the date of termination.

Suspending an employee shouldn’t be taken lightly and we recommend calling your HR Consultant before you proceed.