The four steps of constructive discipline are usually completed in order, until the problem is resolved or employment is terminated. Any step before termination may be repeated several times. It is also possible to skip steps in a serious situation.
An oral warning becomes necessary when a problem continues -- usually when a pattern is forming. In addition to clarifying the problem and the performance expected, an oral warning formally cautions the employee that a problem exists. The supervisor should identify the pattern and explain its impact on the employee's job responsibilities and the business operations of the office.
The supervisor should explain how the employee must improve and indicate when a follow-up meeting will be held. It is important for the employee to understand that the supervisor considers the matter serious enough to respond with further discipline, if necessary. After giving an oral warning, the supervisor should document the oral warning in the supervisor's file for the employee describing what the employee was told and agreements reached. The supervisor should follow up with meetings until the problem is resolved or becomes serious enough for the next step.
Written warnings are appropriate when an oral warning has failed to bring about the desired change in behavior or when the problem requires a more serious response. A written warning can be given to the employee without a discussion or can be accompanied by a discussion with the employee to reinforce the seriousness of the action. If the supervisor engages a bargaining unit employee in discussion, the employee can request their union shop steward. The written warning should contain the following:
- A summary of, or reference to, the prior discipline
- A factual description of the incident, performance problem or pattern
- An explanation of why the behavior, job performance or pattern is unacceptable
- An action statement describing what the employee must do, e.g., submit a doctor's note, improve productivity, reduce errors
- A warning that if the employee continues the unacceptable behavior or job performance pattern, the supervisor will take further disciplinary action
By outlining the written warning as described, the burden shifts responsibility for improvement to the employee. The employee should sign the memo acknowledging its receipt. The supervisor should keep a copy, make a copy for the employee, and send the original (signed) copy (via the Human Resources Officer) to the employee's file in Human Resources.
Suspension is a very serious step in the constructive discipline process and is an appropriate disciplinary action for non-exempt employees (Office and Clerical (Local 3882), Laboratory and Technical (Local 3882), and Service Staff (Local 1, Local 810). During the suspension, the employee does not report to work and is not paid. Suspension is the step closest to termination of employment. It is invoked for offenses after prior corrective efforts have failed, or when the offense itself is serious enough to warrant suspension without prior discipline. It tells the employee that he or she is one step away from termination.
The Human Resources Officer and Employee Relations are consulted prior to the supervisor taking this step in the discipline process. Employee Relations can advise on whether suspension is appropriate as well as recommend a duration for the suspension.
Suspension is not an appropriate action for administrative/professional positions due to wage and hour considerations. Consult with the Human Resources Officer in cases involving Administrator and Professional employees.
Termination is the final step in the disciplinary process and is taken when the previous steps of constructive discipline have failed to resolve the problem or when a very serious infraction (i.e., "gross misconduct") mandates immediate termination of employment.
When job performance or conduct has reached this point, the documentation should show that the employee has, in effect, terminated his or her own employment through failure to take the recommended corrective action.
Supervisors are to consult with the Human Resources Officer or Employee Relations before taking action to terminate.