Author: George Perez
In any fair and equitable workplace, the concept of "just cause" due process is
paramount. Just cause and due process is a cornerstone of fair employment
practices, ensuring that employees are treated equitably and that disciplinary
actions are taken with integrity. By following these seven essential steps,
organizations can foster a workplace environment that respects employees' rights and upholds principles of justice.
This procedural framework ensures that employees' rights are protected, and
disciplinary actions are taken based on legitimate grounds. This article is an
opportunity to share concepts and guidelines that are taught in a variety of
courses at Public Agency Training Council by Instructor George A. Perez, which
include Essentials of Internal Affairs Investigations, Investigating Citizen
Complaints, and First Line Supervision & Management.
The following provides a detailed overview of the seven essential steps of just
cause and due process, which also draws on reputable sources and legal
1. Notice of the Allegation: The process begins with a clear and concise
notice given to the employee regarding the allegations against them. This
notice should outline the specifics of the alleged misconduct and provide
them with adequate information to prepare their defense.
2. Investigation: A thorough and impartial investigation must be conducted
to gather all relevant facts and evidence related to the allegations. This
step ensures that the decision is well-informed and based on a
comprehensive understanding of the situation.
3. Fair Hearing: In most employment policies, states, and labor procedures,
the employee is given an opportunity for a fair hearing, during which they
can present their case, cross-examine witnesses, and provide evidence to
support their defense. This hearing should be conducted by an unbiased
4. Decision Based on Evidence: The decision-maker should weigh the
evidence presented during the investigation and the hearing. The decision
should be rooted in the facts, considering the credibility of witnesses and
the relevance of evidence. A common pitfall is the infusion of personal
opinions that are unrelated to or relevant to the facts of the case.
5. Consistency in Application: Disciplinary actions should be consistent with
the organization's past practices. Inconsistencies in applying discipline can
weaken the credibility of the process and may lead to legal challenges.
Additionally, applying ad-hoc decisions or disregarding past practices may
cause enhanced scrutiny on the process and those involved.
6. Progressive Discipline: When appropriate, organizations should follow a
progressive discipline approach, starting with less severe penalties and
escalating only if the behavior continues. This approach gives employees
an opportunity to correct their behavior. Occurrences will arise when an
employee’s behavior is so pervasive that it requires a deviation from a
progressive discipline framework. In the instances, the mitigating factors
should be carefully detailed and documented to support the noted
deviation in disciplinary range.
7. Right to Appeal: Employees should have the right to appeal the decision if
they believe that the process was not fair or if new evidence comes to light.
This ensures that the process is accountable and transparent.
This article is intended to provide general focus and guidance for discussion in
policy development and navigating the due process framework. The most
important takeaways of this article are; practicing consistency in reporting and
documentation, timeliness, equity, and fairness throughout disciplinary and
employee accountability processes.
Here are some important resources that can serve as further assistance to policy
developers and organizational leaders alike.
• National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). "What is Just Cause?" (nlrb.gov)
• U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). "Procedural
Regulations: Just Cause and Due Process" (eeoc.gov)
• American Bar Association (ABA). "Just Cause: An Overview of Employee
Disciplinary Actions" (americanbar.org)
• Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "Disciplinary Action and
Just Cause: Avoiding the Legal Pitfalls" (shrm.org)
• Cornell University ILR School. "Progressive Discipline and Just Cause:
Balancing Employee Rights and the Need for an Effective Workplace"
• WorldatWork. "Employee Discipline and Appeals: A Global Perspective on
Best Practices" (worldatwork.org)