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07.20.
CCA Series: CCA Documentation

Coaching & Corrective Action Series

CCA Documentation

(Part 3 of 3 Part Series)

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

In Part 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed Coaching and having the STU.  To close this series, I would like to share with you how to document Coaching and Corrective Actions (CCA’s).

What is Documentation?

Documentation is when you make a written record of any Coaching and Corrective Action that is delivered to an employee.  This includes the Corrective Action Notice (see sample portion below) and any documents that support the CA.  Supporting documents can include: Time cards, attendance records, emails, witness statements, investigation reports, etc.

Why is it Important Legally?

According to Employment Attorneys Nexsen Pruet, “An accurate record of performance problems greatly assists employers (and their counsel) in defending decisions to take disciplinary action based on poor performance when that employee later complains that a decision was unfair, illegal, or discriminatory.”  Not only does documentation help protect the employer legally, but it can also help ensure that your policies are consistently applied throughout your company, which is critical from a discrimination standpoint.  Documentation is also helpful if you choose to contest an unemployment claim.

In my past roles, I would often have a manager come to me to discuss terminating an employee.  Here is how the conversation would typically go (abbreviated):

Manager:  I want to fire Ursula Underperformer!

Me:  Have you spoken with her?  Have you warned her that she could be terminated if she did not improve her performance?

Manager:  Of course, YES!

Me:  May I see your documentation please?

Manager: …

Me: …

Manager: [mumbling] I don’t have any.

Me:  Hmmm.

Manager:  But, it happened!  And she needs to go!

Me:  I’m sorry, but if you don’t have documentation, it’s as if those conversations didn’t happen.  Terminating her without documentation would put the company at risk.  And it’s not fair to the employee.  I would suggest you restart the CCA process with her today.  And make sure you document!

When an employer takes employment action, without documentation – not only is it wrong not to give the employee an opportunity to succeed, but it can put the company at significant legal risk.

What Should You Write in a CCA?

There are several components that should be included in a CCA documentation:

  • Date and description of incident
  • How this affected the company
  • Policy that was violated
  • Expectations going forward
  • Consequences for failing to meet expectations

Below are some examples:

“Charlie Callout, we coached you on 1/15/17 about your attendance and you were placed on a written warning on 2/20/17.  As of today, 4/15/17, we have not seen a significant and sustained improvement in your attendance (see attached attendance record).  Your attendance has caused customer service issues (resulting in customer complaints) and has forced additional workload on other employees.  This is a violation of our attendance policy and it will not be tolerated.  Going forward, you are expected to report for your scheduled shifts, on time and work your complete shift.  You are being placed on a Final Warning. Future occurrences may result in additional corrective action, up to and including termination.” 

 “Debbie Damage, on 7/1/17, you were observed improperly operating a forklift.  Specifically, you were operating the forklift at an unsafe speed and almost hit shelving units.  This could have caused injury to yourself or others, and damage to company property.  This type of behavior is unacceptable and is a violation of our Safety and Standards of Conduct policies.  Going forward, you are expected to operate the forklift in a safe manner and follow all government and company guidelines.  You are being placed on a Final Warning. Future occurrences may result in additional corrective action, up to and including termination.” 

CCA Pointers

  • CCA documentation should be factual, with no emotions.
  • Be concise on the corrective action form. If the documentation requires a thorough explanation, you can provide a detailed summary of events along with the CCA. [Note: Some companies write a CCA letter that includes the above, as well as a more thorough explanation of the situation, expectations, etc.  That is fine too.]
  • Employee does not have to sign a CCA. If they refuse, simply write “Refused to Sign.”  Remind them – they are signing to acknowledge receipt and understanding, not agreement.
  • I recommend sending a detailed follow up email to the employee, summarizing the conversation and expectations going forward. (not necessary in all situations, more typical for performance issues or those that refused to sign)
  • I also recommend documenting the actual CCA conversation for your records.
  • A coaching should be documented, but the employee does not usually sign. You are simply documenting the conversation for your records.
  • Depending on the seriousness of the offense, you may skip CCA steps. The documentation is similar for all steps.
  • On the CCA or supporting documentation, note the date of the meetings and those in attendance.

Final Thoughts

The purpose of CCA and documentation is not simply to protect an employer from a lawsuit.  The true intent is to show the employee that you are doing everything you can to help them become successful in their role.  COACH and CORRECT the behavior (i.e. Coaching and Corrective Action).  The importance of documentation not only shows the employee that you take their success seriously, but allows the employer a more defensible position in the event of a lawsuit.

 

Remember:

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.


About the Author

Sarah Zasso is the Owner/Principal HR Consultant of Sabeza HR (www.SabezaHR.com), a Human Resources Consulting company.  Sarah has achieved both the SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Communication.  With almost 15 years of Human Resource experience, she has worked with a wide variety of industries including retail, restaurant, office, manufacturing, banking, hospitality, and healthcare.  Sarah has served on the board of the SHRM affiliated Coastal Organization of Human Resources since 2015 and has been elected President for 2017.  Sarah is a highly focused and energetic Human Resources professional, and prides herself on her integrity, passion, and positive nature. Sarah is dedicated to meeting and exceeding client’s expectations.

Sabeza HR is “Your Human Resources Solution.”  For a free consultation, contact me at sarah@sabezahr.com, 843-668-4041.

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06.27.
CCA Series: Having the “STU” Conversation

Coaching & Corrective Action Series

Having the “STU” Conversation

(Part 2 of 3 Part Series)

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

What is the STU?

This article discusses the STU (Seek to Understand) Conversation element of the Coaching & Corrective Action (CCA) process.  The STU is the conversation that you have with an employee regarding a performance or conduct issue – with the goal to uncover WHY the employee is not meeting expectations and/or violated a policy.  The STU helps determine the proper course of corrective action, if any.  Regarding performance, some questions to answer are: Did the employee know what to do and how to do it?  Did the employee get enough training?  Regarding conduct: Does the employee know and understand the policy?  Did the employee know what they did was wrong? Was it the employee’s fault?  The STU helps find the answers to those questions.  This part of the CCA process is critical because it helps you hold your employees accountable accurately and consistently.

How does it work?

Let’s say you manage an Emergency Room.  Per company policy, all staff must treat patients while wearing protective gloves.  You notice that Nancy Nurse did not wear gloves while working with her last patient, which is a serious policy violation.  Do you write her up?  You could.  Or you could have a Seek to Understand conversation.  Why is she not wearing her gloves?  Is it possible that the gloves were not stocked?  If they were not stocked, why?  Who was supposed to?  Does Nancy Nurse and the rest of the staff have access to the gloves if they are not stocked?  What is the priority – save a patient or search for gloves?  If the gloves were not stocked and Nancy Nurse did not have access, should she be written up?  Would that be fair? Is this an employee error or a company error?  I hope you see that my point is, without having the STU conversation, you may hold an employee accountable for something that was not in their control.  (and to be clear – No, Nancy Nurse should not receive corrective action for a policy violation that was not her fault or in her control)

Another example could be attendance.  Wally Worker suddenly starts arriving to work late, enough incidents to warrant CCA.  The first conversation should be the STU.  “Wally, I’ve noticed that in the past month you have been 30 minutes late to work 6 times.  This is not like you, is everything ok?”  This approach accomplishes a few things:  This demonstrates to Wally that you are not making assumptions, you care, allows the conversation to be less confrontational, and – most importantly – helps determine the root cause of the behavior.  Wally may say that his car broke down and he has been relying on public transportation.

Why and What’s Next?

The STU allows the leader an opportunity to support the employee and help find a solution.  With Wally, maybe his start time can be adjusted temporarily until the situation is resolved.  I would still recommend that Wally receive the appropriate level of corrective action (must be consistent), but the STU may have helped resolve the behavior.  With Nancy, you can uncover and resolve the root cause of the inaccessible gloves.  Regardless of the reason for the poor performance or misconduct, the STU and coaching starts the corrective action process.  You have notified the employee of the problem and the results of the STU help determine the next steps.  Fix the problem internally (if that is the case) or move forward with the CCA process.

Final Thought

When I work with clients and they ask me if they can start the CCA process (typically the question is “Can I write them up for this?!”), I usually ask them three questions:

  1. Have you done all you can to help the employee be successful?
  2. Have you treated other employees similarly in a comparable situation?
  3. If you had to explain or defend your actions in front of a jury, would you make the same decision?

If you can truthfully say yes to those questions, then you should feel comfortable moving forward with the CCA process.  (Hint:  The STU helps you with those questions)

To be clear, I am not discouraging holding employees accountable.  In fact, I encourage you to hold your employees accountable.  However, it’s important to gain the STU knowledge in order to hold employee’s accountable accurately, fairly, and consistently.

The Seek to Understand (STU) is intended to protect the employer and the employee.  Too often, we make inaccurate assumptions, when all we have to do is start with “Why?”

Next month, look for Part 3 in the CCA Series – Documenting CCA.

 

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.

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05.24.
CCA Series: What is CCA?

Coaching & Corrective Action Series

What is CCA?

(Part 1 of 3 Part Series)

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

 

This article contains an overview of the Coaching & Corrective Action (CCA) process.  Before we begin, I want to explain why I refer to it as Coaching & Corrective Action vs. Disciplinary Action.  Personally, I do not like the term “disciplinary action.”  It creates an automatic and intrinsic negative association.  Whereas, CCA can be perceived as more positive.

The typical process for CCA is Coaching, Written Warning, Final Warning, Termination.

[Of course, certain situations require immediate termination or high level corrective action, i.e. theft, harassment, discrimination, etc.]

What is Coaching?

Think of your employees like a baseball team – you have players and a coach.  The goal is for all of your players to hit home runs, right?  (OK, I do not have tons of knowledge of baseball, but go with me here…)  The coach provides feedback to each player on stance, watching the ball, where to hold the bat, etc. – all in an effort for them to hit that home run.  If the player strikes out, the coach does what?  They “coach” the players so they can connect the bat with the ball next time, and hopefully hit a homerun.  And the players want the feedback.  The point isn’t to bench everyone or kick them off the team, it is to have a strong team of home run hitters.  That requires coaching and corrective action.

Unfortunately, many leaders and employees fear the “coaching” part of the process.  It’s not about punishment, it’s about correction.  You hired your employee for a reason, right?  Then give them a chance to succeed!  I wish every employee hired magically was a superstar, but that is not reality, nor is it reasonable. They sometimes need help to get there.

Coaching is when you provide feedback and guidance to an employee to help them improve, whether it be performance or conduct. Coaching is relevant for both positive and negative feedback.  For the purpose of the article, we will focus on Coaching for improvement.

Coaching is a conversation.  It is less about statements and assumption on the manager’s part and more about questions.  “How do you feel that presentation went? What are your thoughts on….?”  The creates a more comfortable environment for the employee, which an allow for a more effective and fluid conversation, and it can create trust.  In addition, it provides insight to the manager regarding what the employee is actually thinking – which helps the manager formulate their approach.

What if Coaching Doesn’t Work?

Reality is that sometimes Coaching alone doesn’t work and you have to move to the next step in the process.  This is commonly called a Write Up, Written Warning, Disciplinary Action, or similar.  Basically, it’s more serious.  This means the Coaching didn’t work or the incident was so severe that it required skipping the coaching step and directly to corrective action.

You would still use Coaching as a tool, to a point.  Depending on the level of Corrective Action or the severity of the conduct/performance, it might be more appropriate to focus on facts and understanding.

Often, the employee’s behavior improves after the Coaching step.  Employees can’t fix what they don’t know is broken, and employers should allow the employee the opportunity to improve.  Not to mention, the process and documentation can be helpful in the case of a lawsuit.

Coaching and Corrective Action is an intentional approach to improve employee performance and conduct.  It takes time and can be frustrating, but can often be worth it in the end from a morale, financial, and productivity standpoint.

Next month, look for Part 2 in the CCA Series – Having the Seek To Understand (STU) Conversation.

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.


About the Author

Sarah Zasso is the Owner/Principal HR Consultant of Sabeza HR (www.SabezaHR.com), a Human Resources Consulting company.  Sarah has achieved both the SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Communication.  With almost 15 years of Human Resource experience, she has worked with a wide variety of industries including retail, restaurant, office, manufacturing, banking, hospitality, and healthcare.  Sarah has served on the board of the SHRM affiliated Coastal Organization of Human Resources since 2015 and has been elected President for 2017.  Sarah is a highly focused and energetic Human Resources professional, and prides herself on her integrity, passion, and positive nature. Sarah is dedicated to meeting and exceeding client’s expectations.

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03.20.
Your Employee is Your Customer Too!

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

 

Imagine this common scenario if you will…

It’s a crazy day at work! A machine is down, an employee called out and you have a project due by the end of the day.  You, Misty Manager, are stressed, frustrated, and nervous you are about to lose a customer, if not your job.  As you are trying to figure out how to finish the project on time, Sally Superstar knocks on our door and says, “Boss, do you have a minute?  I want to talk to you about something.”  You are thinking, “SERIOUSLY?!  She knows what is going on right now, what could possibly be so important?! Nothing! Grrrr.”  So, you respond curtly to Sally by saying, “I don’t have time for you right now, I’ll get with you later.”  Then you forget, and you never follow up.  The next day, Sally asks to speak with you again, and you dismiss her.  You figure if it was that important, she would make you listen and she is a top performer, she can handle whatever the issue is.  A week later, she asks to speak with you again.  You finally have some time, so you ask her, “Sure, what’s up?”  Sally shares with you that she has some concerns about Rita Rude.  You think her concerns are trivial and a waste of time.  You interrupt Sally and reply, “I think you may be overreacting or sensitive, I don’t think it is that big of a deal.  I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.  You know how she is.  Just let it blow over.”   Two months later, Sally resigns.  You have lost one of your top performers and you don’t understand why.  Sally mentioned something about a concern not being resolved, but it wasn’t a big deal – right? 

WRONG!  As a Human Resources Consultant, I often work with clients on employee issues and morale.  I have found that one of the easiest and most effective ways to resolve employee concerns and increase morale is to simply treat your employee’s as you would treat your customers.  Whether it is Sally Superstar or Nick Needsyouthisminute or Cindy Complainer, your employees are your internal customers and should be treated as such.  If a customer came to you with a concern, how would you address it?  You would likely listen and address their concern with urgency.

In the scenario above, if Misty Manager treated Sally like a customer, she might not have resigned.  Would you ever talk to a customer that way?  Would you dismiss them repeatedly?  Would you interrupt?  Would you ignore their concerns?  I would hope not.  Misty should have taken a moment to treat Sally like a customer interruption.  To clarify – I am not saying to always drop what you are doing to answer an employee question.  However, you should take the time to hear the concern so that you can prioritize and determine action (harassment allegation vs. scheduling change).  Is this something that must be addressed now or can I schedule a time with Sally to discuss later? And if you schedule later, the key is the follow up.  If you don’t follow up, you have lost credibility with the employee.

Would you like to know a secret?  Employees, like customers, often just want to be heard.  They feel valued and validated when someone takes the time to listen.  When you can resolve the concern, resolve it quickly and follow back up with the employee to let them know the situation is resolved.  Just like you would with a customer.

[It’s okay that sometimes the answer is “no.”  The employee may ask for something that you can’t or will not provide.  Explain the “why” behind the “no”, as well as the “yes.”  Communication and transparency is key to employee relations.  I discovered long ago that not everyone would leave my office happy.  What I realized is that it is important for the employee to understand, but they do not have to necessarily agree.]

At the end of the day – employees want to be heard and valued, just like your customers.  Sometimes, we just need a reminder.

If you want to increase performance and morale – treat your employees like you treat your customers.  It really can be that simple!

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.

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02.16.
IS MY EMPLOYEE DRUNK?!

By: Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

February 16, 2017

A client called me last week and stated that they thought an employee was drunk at work.  They said that the employee seemed “out of it” and smelled of alcohol.  My client’s question was, rightfully so, “What do we do?”

Below are some general guidelines regarding how to handle employees who appear to be under the influence (drugs or alcohol) at work.

First and foremost, do not take any action before contacting your Human Resources department.

[Note:  Use your best judgement if there is a safety concern.]

In any case that you believe an employee is under the influence at work (drugs, alcohol, prescribed medication), do not accuse the employee.  Accusations like that can not only get you in potential legal trouble, but create a divide between the company and the employee – especially if you are wrong.

The employee may be on medication (which should be addressed, but not necessarily penalized), may have had a late night and didn’t have a chance to clean up before work, or maybe their mouthwash is just really strong.

The manager’s role is not to diagnose or assume, but identify behavior and take action according to policy.

Policy

Do you have a Drug/Alcohol Workplace policy?  If so, always follow your own policy.  Most polices have a “Reasonable Cause” section which informs the employee that you will require alcohol or drug testing if you believe an employee is working under the influence.

[Note:  If you do not have a written policy, you may (with caution) still proceed with drug testing (with the employee’s consent) and/or hold your employee accountable, but a policy is always recommended for informational, consistency, and legal liability reasons.]

Observation

I recommend to ALWAYS have two individuals (management, not peers) independently observe and document the employee’s behavior.  You should have a Reasonable Suspicion Form available to document the behavior and observations.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), you should look for:

  • Odors (smell of alcohol, body odor, urine)
  • Movements (unsteady, slow, fidgety, dizzy, imbalanced)
  • Eyes (dilated, constricted, glassy, bloodshot)
  • Face (flushed, sweating, confused, blank look)
  • Speech (slurred, slow, distracted mid-thought, inability to verbalize thoughts)
  • Emotions (argumentative, agitated, irritable, drowsy)
  • Actions (yawning, twitching)
  • Inactions (sleeping, unconscious, no reactions to questions)

Assessment

After the employee has been observed, the individuals who observed the behavior should compare notes and assess the situation to determine if they believe there is reasonable cause for testing.  One checkbox on the behaviors/observations listed above does not usually warrant reasonable cause testing.  Although there are no specific guidelines on how to determine if an employee is under the influence – use your experience, knowledge, and best judgement.  I recommend having a standard procedure that states how many behaviors (ex., 4) result in testing.  This ensures consistency when applying the policy.

[Remember, safety first.  For example, if an employee is a bus driver and there are suspicions that they might be under the influence, do not let them drive and put themselves and/or others in danger.]

  • If both agree based on the observation/policy that the employee is under the influence, they may proceed to the reasonable cause drug test (more on that below).
  • If the observers disagree, a third party should observe to help make a determination.
  • If both agree based on the observation that the employee does not appear to be under the influence, do not send them for testing. Rather, monitor the situation.  Depending on what was observed, it may be appropriate to have a conversation with the employee to make sure they are ok to continue their workday.

Do not discuss concerns about the employee’s behavior with the staff (ex., “Hey, have you noticed John Smith acting funny today?  Do you smell alcohol?”), this should be treated confidentially, as long as it is realistic/reasonable to do so.  Discussing with the staff is unprofessional, creates gossip, and could potentially expose the company to legal liability.

Meeting with the Employee/Consent

When meeting with the employee, there should be three people in the room (employee, manager, human resources).  It’s important not to accuse the employee.  I recommend starting the conversation with, “How are you today?” and maybe adding, “You seem a little off today, is everything ok?”  Explain to the employee what has been observed and documented by management, as well as why it is important (safety issues, care about the employee, etc).  The manager should then explain that they want to rule out the possibility that the employee may have violated the Drug/Alcohol Workplace Policy, by sending them for drug/alcohol testing.  The intent of approaching the testing in this manner, is to show that you are not accusing the employee and have not jumped to conclusions.

[Note: if during the initial part of the conversation, the employee shares a legitimate explanation, the employer does not have to send for drug testing.]

If you have the policy in your handbook (consenting to the policy with a signed handbook acknowledgement), you do not need them to sign another consent form, but that is always helpful.  If you do not have a policy, make sure you have the consent form available for the employee’s signature.  The employee should then proceed to complete the drug/alcohol testing.

Refusal

If the employee refuses to submit to the testing, refer to your policy.  Most policies treat refusal as a positive result, which usually results in termination.  If the employee refuses a ride home or a cab, and insists on driving – you should take down the employee’s car and license plate information and notify local authorities to report your concern that someone is driving under the influence.

Transportation

Although it should go without saying, do not let the employee drive themselves to the drug testing facility or home (yes, it has happened).  Ideally, a manager or a representative of Human Resources should drive and escort the employee to the testing facility, and home.  If not possible, you may coordinate with a local cab company.   All transportation fees are paid by the employer.

Pay & Results

The employee should not return to work (recommend paid leave for non-exempt, required to pay for exempt) until the results are received.  If the results are positive, discipline the employee according to policy.  If the results are negative, allow the employee to return to work.  Do not apologize for submitting them to drug testing, make sure they understand that you were concerned for their health and safety, as well as others.

 

This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.


About the Author

Sarah Zasso is the Owner/Principal HR Consultant of Sabeza HR (www.SabezaHR.com), a Human Resources Consulting company.  Sarah has achieved both the SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Communication.  With almost 15 years of Human Resource experience, she has worked with a wide variety of industries including retail, restaurant, office, manufacturing, banking, hospitality, and healthcare.  Sarah has served on the board of the SHRM affiliated Coastal Organization of Human Resources since 2015 and has been elected President for 2017.  Sarah is a highly focused and energetic Human Resources professional, and prides herself on her integrity, passion, and positive nature. Sarah is dedicated to meeting and exceeding client’s expectations.


Expert HR guidance at a sensible price – Sabeza HR is “Your Human Resources Solution.”  Sabeza HR helps businesses navigate the often complex dynamics of Human Resources.  For a consultation, contact Sarah at sarah@sabezahr.com or 843-668-4041.

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