Discipline, Disciplinary Action Procedure, Measures to improve Discipline, Employee Relations, MS-24

Define Discipline.  Describe the disciplinary action procedure which has taken place in your organization or any organization you are familiar with. Suggest measures to improve it.

Discipline: Counseling or other employment action (including imposition of sanctions) undertaken to correct or modify unacceptable job performance or behavior to acceptable standards. Disciplinary measures authorized to be imposed upon staff employees including an oral or written reprimand, suspension without pay (not to exceed 10% of the gross amount payable for any payroll period) or dismissal from employment.

Process of Disciplinary
Disciplinary action generally begins with the witnessing by a Public Safety officer, a University Housing staff member, another student, or a faculty/staff member of conduct which appears to violate the standards expected of Central students. In such cases, a report is prepared describing pertinent facts and the names of persons involved. An individual wishing to report an incident should contact an official in either the Department of University Housing, Public Safety, or the Student Affairs Office, depending on whether the incident occurred in the University Housing system or elsewhere on campus. If the incident is deemed sufficiently serious and a representative of the appropriate office considers the report to indicate probable violation of University regulations, a decision is made to initiate the disciplinary process.

In such cases, a written charge is sent to the student(s) involved. The charge requests the student(s) to appear at a hearing in order to hear the evidence against him/her (them) and to offer explanatory and clarifying information as is considered appropriate. The hearing officer or body will then render a prompt decision, including the action taken, in cases where violations have been found to occur.

A clear and effective disciplinary policy offers many benefits, including:
•     Clear guidelines for employee behavior. A straightforward, easy to understand disciplinary policy will tell your employees what you expect of them and what conduct you will not tolerate. Enforcing the policy in a uniform manner will show your employees that you take these rules seriously.
•     Employee morale. It's true that the employee you discipline is not likely to enjoy a morale boost, but the rest of your workforce will. Other employees do not like to see a co-worker getting away with poor, unproductive behavior while they work thanklessly at their jobs. And if a problem employee is allowed to misbehave without suffering any consequences, others in the workforce will soon realize that they can get away with slacking off too.
•     Protection against employee lawsuits. If you clearly inform your employees of the consequences of poor behavior and enforce your policy fairly, you will buy yourself some insurance in future disputes. It will be more difficult for an employee to argue that his or her termination was unjustified if you can show that you told your employees what conduct would result in discipline, and that this particular employee had been subject to prior disciplinary action.

Writing a Disciplinary Policy

The trick to writing an effective disciplinary policy is to give your employees clear notice of the consequences of poor behavior without locking yourself into following one course of action in every situation. For example, even though you may generally follow a policy of progressive discipline (in which a first offense is met with a verbal warning, a second offense with a written warning, and so on), you want to reserve the right to immediately fire an employee who really acts badly. And you will also want to avoid any hint of a promise that employees will not be fired unless they engage in specified misconduct - you may find that your employees dream up bad acts you never considered, or that you have to fire employees for reasons entirely separate from their performance (an economic downturn or plant closing, for example).
Once you know that an employee has violated a company rule, you will have to dispense some of that discipline promised in your policy.

Here are some guidelines to follow:
•     Don't procrastinate. Once you have determined that discipline is in order, set up a meeting with the employee right away. The sooner you place the employee on notice, the sooner he or she will be able to improve.
•     Keep it private. Schedule a meeting with your employee to discuss the problem, one on one. Make sure you can meet in a private place, away from eavesdropping co-workers and office gossip.
•     Be honest. Your natural tendency may be to accentuate the positive, but now is not the time to indulge it. The purpose of this meeting is to notice and improve poor behavior. You must tell the employee precisely what the problem is, what steps he or she must take to correct it, and the consequences of failing to do so.
•     Be respectful. Even bad news is best delivered with respect. Let your employee know that you want him or her to improve, and that you will help if you can. Set aside enough time for the meeting so that the employee will have an opportunity to respond. Make sure to listen to your employee's concerns; it may be that a performance problem is the result of a misunderstanding, or could be easily corrected if you work together.
•     Write it down. Document every disciplinary meeting, action or discussion with each of your employees, and place that record in the employee's personnel file. In the case of a written warning, give the employee a copy of the warning and ask him or her to sign it to acknowledge receipt. These records will help you later, if that employee decides to file a lawsuit.
•     Follow up. If you tell your employee that you must see improvement by a certain date, make sure to follow up. Check with your employee periodically to make sure everything is proceeding smoothly.
It is essential that all employees accept personal responsibility for maintaining high standards of conduct and job performance, including observance of WPI rules and policies. Violations of these standards will result in disciplinary action. Disciplinary action is considered a dimension of performance evaluation. It is a corrective process to help employees overcome work-related shortcomings, strengthen work performance and achieve success.

Supervisors are encouraged to discuss what is the appropriate course of action in a particular case with the Human Resources staff prior to taking any disciplinary action. The penalty may vary due to extenuating circumstances or prior violations and each case should be evaluated on its own set of circumstances.
In dealing with deficiencies in conduct and work performance, the University tries to be fair and consistent in its treatment of employees. Many factors are taken into consideration if it becomes necessary to discipline an employee, including the nature and seriousness of the offense, the employee's past record, the total impact on the employee's department and on the University, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. In general, discipline for employees is applied in progressive steps as follows:
1. Oral warning
2. Written warning
3. Final written warning, suspension and/or disciplinary probation
4. Termination of employment

This policy is not contractual in nature and does not constitute an agreement that any particular procedure or rule will apply. The nature of the offense and the particular circumstances determine whether or not all or any of the steps in the above sequence are followed. Disciplinary steps may be omitted, accelerated, or repeated as the University determines appropriate.

The purpose of disciplinary measures short of termination is corrective, to encourage employees to improve their conduct or performance so that they may continue their employment with the University. The University expects all employees to behave in a mature and responsible manner and to perform their jobs conscientiously, without the need of disciplinary action. These corrective disciplinary measures will not apply in the event of any offense that the University determines to warrant immediate termination of employment or in other circumstances when the University determines that corrective measures would be ineffectual or otherwise inappropriate.

Oral Warnings: If an employee is given an oral warning the employee is informed of the warning by his/her manager. The warning is also recorded by the manager in writing and the record is placed in the employee's personnel file.

Written Warnings: If an employee is issued a written warning or a final written warning, the manager will meet with the employee to discuss the disciplinary action and the employee will be asked to sign the warning. The employee's signature is only an acknowledgment that the employee has been informed of the warning; it does not indicate agreement with the warning. All written warnings are retained in the employee's file.

Disciplinary Probation: An employee may be placed on disciplinary probation for unsatisfactory performance or conduct. An employee placed on disciplinary probation will be given a written notice of probation, which generally provides an explanation of the reason for the action, the length of the probationary period and a plan of corrective action to be successfully completed during the period. The employee's manager will meet with the employee to discuss the terms of the disciplinary probation, and the employee will be asked to sign the notice of probation as an acknowledgement that the employee has been informed of the action. A copy of the notice is retained in the employee's personnel file.

At the conclusion of the probationary period, and from time to time during the period, as appropriate, the employee's manager will meet with the employee to review his/her progress.

An employee on disciplinary probation who does not show satisfactory improvement is subject to further disciplinary action at any time, up to and including termination of employment.

Investigative Suspension: A suspension from work may be appropriate when circumstances require an investigation and it does not appear practical or desirable or in the best interests of the University or of the employee for the employee to remain at work during that investigation. An investigative suspension is not itself a disciplinary measure. If, at the conclusion of the investigation, the investigative suspension is not converted to a disciplinary suspension or discharge, the employee will be reinstated and will be paid at his/her normal straight-time rate for all regularly scheduled work missed during the suspension.

Disciplinary Suspension: A disciplinary suspension is a suspension from work without pay for one or more days for a repeated or serious infraction of University rules or policies. A record of the suspension is retained in the employee's personnel file.

Misconduct During the Probation Period: The disciplinary action policy is not normally applied to new employees during the probationary period. Unsatisfactory performance or any infraction of University rules or policies or other misconduct during this period may result in immediate termination of employment. Probationary employees are not eligible to use the grievance procedure.