Corrective Action Plan
Question: Can I receive a corrective action plan from my employer without prior written or verbal warnings?
Answer: Yes, an at-will employee in Arizona may be placed on a corrective action plan without any prior warnings.
Arizona is an employment at will state, meaning that unless there is a written agreement stating that the employee may only be terminated for cause, the employer can terminate an employee for any reason - other than an illegal reason - and without warning or just cause. Employers may also place an employee on a corrective action plan without any prior written or verbal warning. Typically, a corrective action plan is one of the final steps in a progressive discipline policy. Those steps would be outlined in an employee handbook or possibly in an employment contract.
Generally, a progressive discipline policy is simply a guideline that the employer will follow in disciplining employees. In other words, there is nothing unlawful about an employer not following its own progressive discipline policy when dealing with at-will employees because the progressive discipline policy is not a contract. A progressive discipline policy could be a contract if there is clear contractual language attached to the policy, but if there is no such language, the policy is simply a guideline. Employers should, however, follow their own progressive discipline policies because it is good business to treat all employees equally and may help avoid a lawsuit. An employer's failure to follow its own disciplinary policy could be used against the employer to show that the actions being taken against the employee were motivated by unlawful discrimination, "whistle blowing," or one of the many other illegal reasons to take disciplinary action against an employee.