As a restaurant operator, do you know how employee discipline is being handled within your dining establishments? If you don’t, then take a moment to check out #1 on our list of the 10 scariest restaurant lawsuits.
While this Chipotle lawsuit hasn’t gotten as much airtime as the food contamination scandal that rocked the brand earlier this year, it doesn’t make it any less worthy of our attention. In fact, the sketchy details surrounding the lawsuit deserve another glance as we discuss the topic of employee discipline and why restaurant operators need to get a better handle on it.
A Bad Example of Employee Discipline
The worst thing about this Chipotle lawsuit is the fact that the underage employee was repeatedly harassed and sexually assaulted by two supervisors. The second worst thing about this lawsuit? Chipotle only took steps to discipline one of those managers after the lawsuit was filed, and not for the reason you’d think:
“The offender… was eventually fired — though… he wasn’t actually fired for committing the sexual assaults, but for lying during the course of the investigation.”
Despite all that has come to light about Chipotle over the course of the past year, it’s still surprising to see their lack of responsibility or regard for what occurs in their restaurants—especially when it has to do with something as serious as sexual harassment.
Now, our focus today isn’t to rake Chipotle over the coals (yet again). The point we’re trying to make is that employee discipline is a serious matter. Whether your employees have damaged company property, used illegal drugs on the premises, were repeatedly absent, committed an act of violence, or violated another one of your restaurant’s policies, disciplinary actions need to be enforced.
How you choose to discipline your employees is up to you. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave those disciplinary measures up to the whim of the shift manager or dictated on a case by case basis. You need to clearly define everything upfront so that there is no mistake—by your employees or by management—on how discipline will be handled from this day forward.
Get a Better Handle on Your Employee Discipline Policy
As a restaurant operator, it’s your responsibility to ensure your business runs like a well-oiled machine. In order to do that, you’ve got to lay out a strict discipline policy from the get-go.
The following checklist will help you keep all your bases covered:
- Include a thorough code of conduct within your company handbook to let employees know what sort of behaviors are unacceptable.
- Establish a discipline policy that clearly states that employment is at-will and can be terminated by either party at any time (especially if in violation of the code of conduct).
- Define the process of discipline: what constitutes a violation, how many strikes an employee receives, and the type of discipline to take.
- Develop formal documentation. This should be shared prior to employment, during the onboarding process, as well as when a reminder of the policy is needed.
- Closely monitor the behavior of your team—this includes the managers responsible for overseeing the conduct of your employees.
- Schedule ongoing performance reviews with team members.
- Document everything and escalate to the appropriate enforcers of your policy.
- Create a process to fairly investigate each case before taking action.
- When discipline is needed, do so immediately after the offense and do it in private so as not to disrupt the rest of your operations.
- Always issue clear warnings after a violation occurs and make sure employees understand why they are being disciplined. Provide a reminder of your code of conduct as well as the consequences if further violations occur.
- Managers should be regularly trained, reminded, and monitored to ensure that they are handling discipline in a consistent and impartial manner.
- Always check with HR to verify that you’ve followed the policy correctly and are within your rights to enforce disciplinary measures.
- Regardless of the type of violation, put a plan in place to fix the underlying issue. It may just be with a single employee or there may be a more serious issue at one of your locations.
Get Some Help
Remember: when it comes to getting a better handle on your restaurant, you don’t have to do it alone. Restaurant management software can help you more easily establish strict guidelines, consistent procedures, and regular monitoring to ensure all of your policies are being enforced properly. Give us a call or send us a message today if you would like our help getting started.