Q: Can we reduce an employee’s hours as a disciplinary measure?
A: Unless reducing hours is already a common practice in your workplace, it could be challenged on the basis of fairness, consistency with your policy, or discrimination. For example, if no other employees have had a reduction in hours for disciplinary reasons, this employee could claim they’re being unfairly targeted and that the discipline was actually a result of their inclusion in a protected class (e.g., if the employee is over 40 years old or believes in a particular religion). We do not recommend reducing hours as a disciplinary measure, as it does not directly address the performance or behavioral issue that the employee is having.
Instead, follow a progressive disciplinary process and put the employee on a performance improvement plan (PIP), addressing poor performance and behavioral issues as soon as they arise. In this case, meet with the employee to discuss the performance and behavioral problems, and document your expectations going forward. Treating the employee consistently with your policy and documenting the steps of the disciplinary/PIP process will be useful if any of your decisions are later challenged by an employee claim.