The seven steps to just cause discipline and/or dismissal have been used in the workplace for decades.  We see this primarily in a collective bargaining, union and management relationship.  This was established through the opinion of arbitrators in discipline cases as a set of guidelines or criteria to be applied to the facts of each discipline case and investigation process.  However, we should be using these seven steps in all our organizations as part of the discipline, investigation and termination process.  Consistency is key in these situations.

Below are the seven steps of Just Cause:

  1. “Reasonable Rule or Work Order. Is the rule or order reasonably related to the orderly, efficient, and safe operation of the business?
  2. Notice. Did the employee receive adequate notice of the work rule or performance standard and the possible consequences of failure to comply?
  3. Sufficient Investigation. Did you conduct an investigation before making a decision about taking disciplinary action?
  4. Fair Investigation. Was your investigation fair and objective?
  5. Proof. During your investigation, did you find proof of misconduct or of a performance discrepancy?
  6. Equal Treatment. Have you dealt with your employees equally, without discrimination?
  7. Appropriate Discipline. How do you decide what’s appropriate?”[i]

Additional Questions to Consider

The University of Berkeley does a great job offering additional questions in each of the seven categories as listed above.  Workplace investigations take significant amounts of time and can be stressful, especially if the investigation can lead to discipline or dismissal.  Ensure your organization has processes and procedures in place to manage through the investigation process; consistently and fairly, while following the seven steps of just cause.


New York Legislature Transgender Rights Law- January 2019

“After 16 years of debate and discussion, the New York State Legislature recently passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“GENDA”), which would amend the New York State Human Rights Law to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression…The Act also expands New York’s hate crime laws to include crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming people…The legislation has been sent to Governor Cuomo, who is expected to sign the bill. If signed, the Act will be effective thirty days after it is signed, with the exception of certain amendments relating to the hate crime laws, which will not become effective until November 1, 2019.”[ii]

New York: NYC Mandates Workplace Lactation Rooms (3/18/19)

“Beginning March 18, 2019, employers in the Big Apple with at least four workers must provide lactation rooms and create a written lactation-accommodation policy that must be given to workers when they are hired. The city’s human rights commission will release a model policy before the effective date…. Covered employers will have to provide a clean space (not a bathroom) for employees to express breast milk. The space must be shielded from view and free from intrusion and have an electrical outlet, a chair and a surface for personal items. The space must be close to running water and the employee’s work area, and there also must be a refrigerator near the employee’s work area.”[iii]

New York: NYC Mandates Annual Anti-Harassment Training (9/6/18 & 4/1/19)

“The New York City Council passed an assemblage of 11 bills to redress workplace sexual harassment. This legislative package, dubbed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, was signed into law May 9 by Mayor de Blasio.

Perhaps most notably, the act requires New York City employers with 15 or more employees to provide annual interactive training to prevent sexual harassment for all employees, including interns and supervisory and managerial employees.

Effective date of notice posting and fact sheet distribution: 9/6/2018*
Effective date of annual interactive training requirement: 4/1/19”[iv]

Connecticut Bans Pay History Inquiries (1/1/19)

“Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Public Act No. 18-8, “An Act Concerning Pay Equity,” into law on May 22, 2018, making Connecticut the sixth state to prohibit employers from asking applicants about salary history. California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont had previously adopted similar bans.”[v]

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant






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