Why not just issue a final written warning, or create a performance improvement plan, or place the individual on probation? At the final step of a discipline procedure, when earlier formal discussions have failed to convince the employee to change behavior and return to fully acceptable performance, a dramatic gesture is required to clearly communicate that the end is at hand. No other final step has as much power as a formal suspension from work as a final disciplinary step because it:
- Allows a ‘‘cooling off’’ period.
- Communicates the seriousness of the issue.
- Demonstrates management’s resolve to get the problem solved.
- Provides the employee with time to think.
- Previews unemployment.
- Is accepted by third parties as ‘‘sufficient notice.’’
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The last item may be the most important. Today, almost any termination can be challenged. Typically, the first question that the arbitrator or unemployment hearing officer or other third party will ask is, ‘‘Was the employee aware of the seriousness of the situation? Did he fully understand that his job was at risk?’’ Arbitrators and others have universally accepted a suspension as ‘‘sufficient notice’’ that the individual’s job is in jeopardy.