Corrective Discipline and Discharge
Discipline may be appropriate and necessary for some continuing or serious performance problems. Discipline is often considered a form of "punishment," but that need not be the case. While discipline can have negative consequences and must warn about possible future consequences, it can be a powerful motivator for positive change. By approaching discipline as a strategy of corrective instruction in which the supervisor and employee respectfully work together to improve the employee's performance, discipline can become a problem-solving process. Such an approach also allows for documenting how the employee will be held accountable, and a supervisor's commitment to helping the employee become successful.
While coaching is fairly common, discipline is fairly limited during an employee's probation period. During the initial 6-month probation period the employee serves when he or she is newly hired at the University, the supervisor can terminate an employee at any time (with or without warning) for any reason that does not violate public policy (e.g. illegal discrimination). Despite this flexibility, supervisors often will give initial probation employees at least one disciplinary warning, verbally or in writing, before moving to discharge.
Transfer and promotion probation
Employees have a right to receive at least one written notice of performance problems and required changes with at least 30 days to correct those problems. This warning letter advises the employee that his or her performance must become satisfactory or the employee will be removed from the position and placed on administrative layoff status at the end of the probation. It also advises the employee of the right to submit an application for a transfer.
If at the end of the three month probation period, the employee has made significant progress toward correcting the performance problems and appears likely to meet performance expectations, the supervisor has the right to extend the transfer/promotion probation period up to an additional 30 calendar days for a total probation period of four months. The employee would receive another Transfer/Promotion Probation Warning letter for the additional 30 days.
Should the employee fail to meet performance expectations during the transfer/promotion probation period, the supervisor may place the employee on administrative layoff status at the end of the probation. This status provides the employee with the same rights and responsibilities as regular layoff status, with the exception of recall/reemployment rights. The supervisor informs the employee of this decision using the Administrative Layoff letter. (Note: employees with misconduct problems may be discharged instead.)
Regular classified employees who have successfully completed their initial
or transfer/promotion probation period and then have continuing performance problems can expect their supervisor to follow progressive
discipline procedures as outlined in classified staff policy #403.0, Disciplinary Action. Progressive discipline is not appropriate for more serious problems (e.g. theft, threats, etc.), so a supervisor may take a more serious disciplinary action the first time such a problem occurs, up to and including discharge.
The first progressive discipline step, a verbal warning, differs from coaching in that it includes a warning of future discipline. It is not considered to be a formal disciplinary action, however, and is not sent to the employee's university personnel file. It may be summarized in writing, though. A written warning is the second step and is a formal disciplinary action that becomes part of the employee's university record. It describes the type of problems, the corrections that will be required, and the right of the employee to appeal the written warning. Disciplinary probation and suspension without pay are each the third step just prior to discharge, but they each address different types of problems.
Disciplinary probation is an action that gives the employee a period of one to six months to correct (and maintain the correction of) work performance and attendance problems.
Disciplinary suspension without pay allows the supervisor to take away the employee's pay for up to 30 calendar days for conduct (behavior) violations.
Discharge is the last and final step of progressive discipline and causes termination of employment for the employee.
In order to determine the appropriate level of discipline, the supervisor must investigate and document the problem and consider a number of factors. These factors include the results of the investigation, the employee's record, the severity of the problem, etc. If during the investigation the employee's presence in the workplace may aggravate the situation or impede the investigation, the supervisor may place the employee on investigative leave with pay for up to five days. During this paid leave, the employee must check in with the supervisor as required and must remain available during normal work hours to come to the workplace for any scheduled meetings.
If the supervisor is considering suspension without pay or discharge, a pre-suspension or pre-discharge meeting must be scheduled with the employee to review the results of the investigation. The supervisor gives the employee a Pre-suspension or Pre-discharge Meeting Notice Letter at least 24 hours before the meeting to allow the employee an opportunity to organize a response.
Also, prior to the pre-suspension/pre-discharge meeting and prior to taking the actions of disciplinary probation, suspension without pay, or discharge, the supervisor can consult with senior departmental management as well as the designated Human Resources Organizational Consultant.
Once the supervisor determines the appropriate level of discipline, a meeting should be scheduled with the employee to communicate the decision and to provide the employee with a letter that documents the action. Every formal disciplinary action must include the employee's right to appeal the action using the Staff Dispute Resolution Procedure.
If the employee admits personal problems are affecting his/her work, or the employee's performance/behavior appears to be affected by personal problems, the corrective discipline letter should include the appropriate standard paragraph on Employee Assistance, Counseling & Consultation.