Resolving Employee Performance Problems

The University Administrator’s Guide to Corrective Action and Progressive Discipline

INTRODUCTION

A basic part of a manager’s job is obtaining effective results from people.  The employees in a unit look to the supervisor for direction and leadership, which the supervisor provides by identifying performance standards and providing motivation, employee development, evaluation, training, rewards and discipline, if necessary.

Effective discipline is the result of constructive leadership exercised within the framework of a clear and consistent policy. It is inseparable from other aspects of supervision and employee relations.  Supervisors are responsible for instructing employees in what is needed to meet performance standards and rules of conduct.  If this is done and problems are recognized and solved early, the need for disciplinary action should be reduced.

Handling disciplinary problems effectively is a matter of using good judgment and common sense within the context of university policy, state regulations, accepted labor relations practices, and collective bargaining agreements.  The outline that follows is meant to guide you in correcting employee performance problems through the application of the concept of “Progressive Discipline.”  While primarily directed toward the supervisors and managers working with classified employees, with appropriate modification of sample letters, this manual can also guide managers of unclassified employees.  Deans, directors and department heads will also find it useful for faculty discipline under Article 27 of the AAUP collective bargaining agreement.

At the onset, a basic premise should be that satisfactory performance is a minimal expectation.  To achieve excellence, supervisors should apply motivation principles and utilize the techniques of progressive discipline to immediately address performance deficiencies or incidents of misconduct.

This manual intends to equip you with the means to improve work performance.  Only you however, can supply the determination and perseverance to see the process through to its logical conclusion.

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PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

Progressive discipline is a method of attempting to correct work deficiencies through counseling, warning, reprimand or other forms of remedial action carried out in a manner which is appropriate to the employee’s behavior and the circumstances surrounding that behavior.

Problems in employee performance may occur in any job at any time.  Progressive discipline provides a constructive method of problem solving for the benefit of both the employee and the manager.

Progressive discipline need not start at the beginning of the disciplinary spectrum.  That is, if the situation warrants it, a supervisor may recommend suspension or even dismissal for a “first offense.”

The key to progressive discipline rests with early recognition and action rather than “suffering in silence” until the problem becomes grave enough to warrant disciplinary action. Counseling, therefore, becomes essential to the process of correcting deficiencies in employee performance and should be used as soon as a problem is noticed.  Managers/Supervisors should maintain written notes or records of such counseling.

In most cases, following constructive counseling, employees will modify their work habits or behavior to conform to the expectations and standards set by their supervisor.  Conversely, if an employee does not improve his/her work performance, disciplinary action at an appropriate level is warranted.  By not choosing to improve or modify his/her performance, it is the employee who has brought about the discipline, not the supervisor.

When an employee’s work does show improvement, reward them. The setting for that reward should be at least as formal and important as the one in which the deficiencies were pointed out. In most cases, counseling or the early steps of progressive discipline are successful and prevent the need for the case to work its way through the progressive disciplinary system.

There is a significant distinction to be made between incompetence and misconduct.  At the earliest stages both may be dealt with through the steps of progressive discipline.  At some point however, you will have to deal with continuing performance deficiencies in a service rating.  In general terms this break comes after the warning step, and the warning should indicate specifically that failure to improve will adversely affect the next performance evaluation.  Misconduct on the other hand, is more appropriately dealt with utilizing progressively severe discipline, and each stage should reference the potential for suspension and termination if correction does not occur.

PRE-DISCIPLINARY ACTIVITY

  • Counseling

THE LADDER OF PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

  • Written Warning
  • Letter of Reprimand
  • Suspension
  • Demotion
  • Dismissal

The above disciplinary actions are intended to depict the concept of progressive discipline but should not be construed as a hard and fast policy for the management of all types of disciplinary action.

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GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

  • Reasonable standards of work performance must be established at the time of initial placement and as needed thereafter.
  • Reasonable standards of work performance must be clearly communicated to all staff.
  • The purpose of discipline is to correct an employee’s behavior, not to punish.
  • Employee discipline must be administered promptly in order to be effective.
  • Discipline must be administered with impartiality.
  • Standards of work performance and University policies must be consistently maintained, and employee discipline must be consistently enforced.
  • The action taken must be related to the offense.  The objective and possible effects upon the individual, the group and the agency’s mission must all be considered.
  • All forms of disciplinary actions and warnings must be carefully documented through written records.
  • Follow through is essential to insure that the action has been effective.

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PRE-DISCIPLINARY INTERVENTION

Verbal Counseling Sessions

The verbal counseling session is a meeting held between the supervisor and employee to discuss general work performance and specific areas in need of improvement.  Frequently, problems which are recognized EARLY can be solved by an informal discussion.  Privacy and sufficient time devoted to the meeting are essential.  It is generally helpful to prepare for the counseling session by outlining specifically the problem areas and developing concrete suggestions for improvement.

A positive approach to the discussion, coupled with constructive counseling, serve as key elements to the verbal counseling session.  Documentation of the session on the appropriate counseling form or in a diary is strongly urged.  This provides a basis for follow‑up at your next meeting with the employee, and gives you a source of documentation if the problem persists and you need to take further action.

When Used:

At first indication that improvement is necessary.  Verbal counseling sessions precede written warnings and official disciplinary action(s).

Many times a supervisor will feel that because a topic has been mentioned at some time, counseling has occurred.  Remember that it is most significant to evaluate what message the employee has received.  A casual conversation, combined with other topics, may not make any impact on the employee.  A private discussion with a closed door and limited interruptions, on the other hand, should fully inform the employee of your expectations, and permit the exchange of information so critical to effective counseling.

If the employee does not improve, or the problem is not corrected following counseling, it may be necessary to move to progressive discipline.  A general rule of thumb is that if a person has been counseled twice without improvement, it is time to up the ante.

A letter of direction may be prepared after a counseling session in order to clarify or emphasize certain points.  This is strictly a communication between the supervisor and the employee and the only place that a copy should be maintained is in the supervisory file.

Sample Letter of Direction

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PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

Written Warnings

Warnings are generally considered to be the first step in the ladder of progressive discipline.  Warnings should be constructive in both tone and intent but differ from counseling in that the employee is put on formal WRITTEN notice that unless improvement is shown, disciplinary action will be taken.  Oral warnings have not proven to be effective and are difficult to prove in grievance settings.  If it is serious enough to warrant a warning, it is serious enough to put in writing.

When Used:

When an employee has been counseled concerning performance deficiencies, and after a reasonable period of time fails to make sufficient improvement.  A written warning may also be issued if the employee has committed a significant infraction requiring more serious corrective action than counseling.

A warning should always precede a less than good performance evaluation in order to demonstrate to the employee the consequences of a lack of improvement.  If possible, it is best to reference the problem using the same terminology as on the service rating form.  For example, a problem such as a lack of proofreading by a typist should be characterized as problems with “quality of work.”  This increases continuity for both the supervisor and employee throughout the process of progressive discipline.

WARNING FORMAT:

In general, warnings must be clear and concise, non‑ punitive in tone, and constructive in approach.

Generally, copies of written warnings are given to the employee in the presence of a union steward, and at that time the employee must be asked to sign the file copy to indicate receipt.  If the employee refuses to sign, per our classified collective bargaining unit agreements, the steward shall sign to indicate receipt.  For unclassified employees, a signature of receipt is not considered necessary.

Inasmuch as warnings could serve as the basis for further disciplinary actions, or be incorporated into service rating reports, copies of written warnings must be placed in the personnel file. In addition, for members of the NP-2 bargaining unit (Maintenance and Service Unit), copies of issued discipline letters must be sent to the union office (see Art. 17, sec 2).  Written warnings must contain the notation, “cc:  Personnel File”, and the text should include the statement, “A copy of this letter will be placed in your personnel file.”

Sample Letter of Warning

Letter of Reprimand

A letter of reprimand is a letter summarizing an isolated incident of unacceptable work conduct.  It may also be used to summarize previous verbal counseling sessions, or warnings, or to point out that unacceptable work performance is continuing.

When Used:

Generally, letters of reprimand are used for an infraction of a state or university regulation or departmental policy, where the employee’s actions are viewed as serious but not to the extent requiring suspension or dismissal.

Points to Remember for a LETTER OF REPRIMAND:

State clearly and concisely that the action being taken is an “OFFICIAL LETTER OF REPRIMAND.”

Outline the employee’s inadequacies or offense  and  include dates and all pertinent facts in the body of the LETTER OF REPRIMAND.

If relevant, mention all previous efforts undertaken to correct the situation and the employee’s personnel file.

State in writing that the LETTER OF REPRIMAND is being made a part of the employee’s personnel file.

Specify that future disciplinary action will be taken unless there is improvement and specify the measurements for satisfactory performance. Please note that in effect this is a warning as well as a reprimand.

Review the matter fully with the employee, and provide the opportunity for discussion.

Provide the employee with a copy of the LETTER OF REPRIMAND in the presence of a union steward and obtain acknowledgment by having the employee sign and date the LETTER OF REPRIMAND.  If the classified employee refuses to sign, the union steward  or representative shall sign to acknowledge receipt per our collective bargaining agreements.  Again, unclassified staff are not required to sign indicating receipt.

Forward a copy of the signed LETTER OF REPRIMAND to the Department of Human Resources Personnel Records and the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations for inclusion in the employee’s personnel file.  For members of the NP-2 bargaining unit (Maintenance and Service Unit), copies of issued discipline letters must be sent to the union office (see Art. 17, sec 2).

Sample Letter of Reprimand

Suspension

A SUSPENSION is a serious disciplinary action.  Under existing regulatory and contractual provisions, an appointing authority may suspend an employee in the classified service under his/her jurisdiction without pay for an aggregate period not exceeding sixty (60) calendar days in any calendar year.

A SUSPENSION imposes a monetary penalty or fine on the employee by depriving him/her of pay during the period of suspension.  In the case of classified employees, the notice informing the employee of the charges, the basis for them, and the right to appeal, are prepared by the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations.  For unclassified staff the letter is prepared at the direction of the Vice‑President and reviewed with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations .  To insure overall University consistency supervisors and managers are requested to contact the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations when ANY VIOLATION OF WORK RULES occurs.

WHEN USED:

SUSPENSION is most often imposed for a specific and serious breach of agency policy or practices.  It may be warranted for a violation after warnings and a letter of reprimand have been issued, or it may be given for a serious violation of a work rule without any prior progressive discipline.

Sample Letter of Suspension

Demotion

DEMOTION is another serious form of disciplinary action which involves reducing an employee’s job level due to problematic performance at the higher level.  If disciplinary demotion is being contemplated, a full exploration of the circumstances must be made with appropriate Labor Relations staff.

WHEN USED:

Generally speaking, this action should be taken only if the performance problem relates to a characteristic of the higher-level job.  A key element of this decision‑making process is to determine that the individual has demonstrated competency at the lower level.  Please consider also whether a demotion will resolve the problem or merely move it to another location.

Dismissal

DISMISSAL is normally the last step in the disciplinary process and comes after all other remedial measures have been exhausted.  A dismissal terminates the employer/employee relationship completely.

WHEN USED:

When all other efforts to correct performance deficiencies have failed, dismissal is appropriate.  Clearly, in the case of an ongoing problem, there will have been a significant history of corrective efforts, generally involving most of the progressive discipline steps, before termination becomes a logical course of action.  Under some circumstances, dismissal is used for some first offenses of the most serious nature.

PLEASE NOTE:

Under the terms of the Loudermill case (see p.22), the individual charged with the responsibility for the dismissal (or suspension) decision is the appointing authority, or his/her immediate designee.  This requires that consultation occur between the supervisor, department head, dean, and the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations as soon as the possibility of dismissal or suspension becomes apparent.  Specifically, supervisors and managers should contact the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations at 486-5684.

Sample Letter of Dismissal

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THE LOUDERMILL DECISION

In the U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, the Court determined that a public sector employee has a proprietary interest in his/her job which precludes a public sector employer from either suspending without pay or dismissing a permanent employee without providing that employee with a right to due process.  The right to due process must clearly be provided before the action is imposed.  The right to a grievance process after disciplinary action is taken, does not fulfill the employer’s obligation.

The following excerpt from the Loudermill decision may help to explain the Court’s thinking:

“The right to due process is conferred not by legislative grace, but by constitutional guarantee.  While the legislature may elect not to confer a property interest in (public) employment, it may not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an interest, once conferred without appropriate procedural safeguards.”

The obligation to provide due process requires that we conduct a pre‑disciplinary meeting with employees prior to suspending or terminating them.

At these meetings the employer shall:

(a) apprise the employee of the charges against him/her;
(b) explain to the employee the nature of the evidence regarding the charges against him/her;
(c)  provide the employee with an opportunity to respond.

It is important to be aware of this significant change in labor law, and to work with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations in order to comply with our obligations so as not to undermine our ability to sustain the disciplinary action taken.  Please notify the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations at 486-5684 as soon as an allegation is received that might result in disciplinary action at the level of suspension or dismissal.

Any violation of the general rules of conduct should trigger a fact-finding and then potentially a pre-disciplinary meeting.

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JUST AND PROPER CAUSE FOR DISCIPLINING AN EMPLOYEE

Few union management agreements define “just cause”, but virtually all refer to it.  Nevertheless, over the years the opinions of arbitrators in discipline cases have developed a sort of “common law” definition.  This definition consists of a set of guidelines or criteria to be applied to the facts of the case.  The criteria are set forth below in the form of question and comments.

A “no” answer to any one of the questions normally signifies that just and proper cause did not exist.  A “no” means that the employer’s disciplinary decisions contained one or more elements of arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and/or discriminatory action such that the decision constituted a sufficient abuse of managerial discretion to warrant the arbitrator to substitute his judgment for that of the employer.

The guidelines are general rules and cannot be applied with slide‑rule precision.

  1. Did the agency give the employee forewarning or foreknowledge of the possible or probable disciplinary consequences of the employee’s conduct?Forewarning or foreknowledge may properly have been given orally by management or preferably in writing.There must have been demonstrable oral or written communication of the rules and penalties to the employee.A finding that there was not appropriate communication does not in all cases require a “no” answer to Question No. 1. Certain offenses such as insubordination, coming to work intoxicated, drinking intoxicating beverages on the job, or theft of the property of the University or of fellow employees are universally recognized, and any employee in our society may properly be expected to know already the conduct is offensive and punishable.
  2. Was the agency’s rule or managerial order reasonably related to effective, efficient, and safe operations?If an employee believes that the rule or order is unreasonable, he or she must nevertheless obey it.  The standard principle is “work now, grieve later.”  The exception to this is a perception that to obey would seriously and immediately jeopardize personal safety or would be directing the employee to commit an illegal act.
  3. Did the agency, before disciplining the employee, investigate to discover whether the employee did in fact violate a rule or order of management?The agency’s investigation must be made before its disciplinary decision is made.  There may, of course, be circumstances under which management must react immediately to the employee’s behavior.  In such cases, the usual action is to place the employee on administrative leave with pay in accordance with the relevant contractual language with the understanding that the final disciplinary decision will be made after the investigation.
  4. Was the agency’s investigation conducted fairly and objectively?Generally, the investigation should be conducted by a managerial designee or team who have no direct involvement in the case or who would not be impacted by the outcome.
  5. At the investigation did the appointing authority obtain substantial evidence that the employee was guilty as charged?In an employment setting we do not have to meet a criminal law standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, the evidence must be substantial and directly related to the charge. The heavier the penalty, the stronger the required evidence.
  6. Has the agency applied its rules, orders, and penalties evenhandedly and without discrimination to all employees?A “no” answer to this question can result in a finding of discrimination and will warrant significant modification of the discipline imposed.If the agency has been lax in enforcing its rules and orders and decides henceforth to apply them rigorously, the agency can avoid a finding of discrimination by informing all employees beforehand of its intent to enforce hereafter all rules.  A clear statement of the specific rules is more effective than a general statement.
  7. Was the degree of discipline administered reasonably related to (a) the seriousness of the employee’s proven offense and (b) the record of the employee’s service with the agency?A minor offense does not merit severe discipline unless the employee has properly been found guilty of the same or other offenses a number of times.  Likewise a long term employee with a good work record deserves more than one with a work history of short duration.

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GENERAL RULES OF CONDUCT
January 2004

Employees are forbidden to engage in the conduct listed below and may be disciplined or dismissed for doing so. The list is not exhaustive.

  1. Unlawfully distributing, selling, possessing, using, or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when on the job or subject to duty
  2. Misusing or willfully neglecting University property, funds, materials, equipment, or supplies;
  3. Fighting, engaging in horseplay, or acting in any manner which endangers the safety of oneself or others. This prohibition includes acts of violence as well as threats of violence.
  4. Marking or defacing walls, fixtures, equipment, machinery, or other University property, or willfully damaging or destroying property in anyway;
  5.  Interfering in any way with the work of others;
  6. Stealing or possessing without authority any equipment, tools, materials, or other property of the University, or attempting to remove them from the premises without written permission from the appropriate authority;
  7. Being inattentive to duty including sleeping on the job.
  8. Refusing to do assigned work or to work overtime if directed, or failing to carry out the reasonable directive of a manager, supervisor, or department head.
  9.  Falsifying any time card, attendance report, or other University record or giving false information to anyone whose duty it is to make such record;
  10. Being repeatedly or continuously absent or late, being absent without notice or reason satisfactory to the University, or leaving one’s work assignment without authorization;
  11. Conducting oneself in any manner, which is offensive, abusive, or contrary to common decency or morality; carrying out any form of harassment including sexual harassment;
  12. Operating state-owned vehicles or private vehicles for state business without proper license or operating any vehicle on University property or on University business in an unsafe or improper manner;
  13.  Having an unauthorized weapon on University property;
  14.  Appropriating state or student equipment, time, or resources for personal use or gain;
  15.  Engaging in actions which constitute a conflict of interest with one’s University job; including but not limited to, in the case of academic administrators and faculty, the teaching of credit courses at other educational institutions, unless approved in advance in accordance with established procedures;
  16. Gambling or soliciting money or other types of solicitation;
  17. Smoking within no-smoking areas, a no-smoking operation, or an area of the University that must be entered for the conduct of University business;
  18.  Computer abuse, including but not limited to. plagiarism of programs, misuse of computer accounts, unauthorized destruction of files, creating illegal accounts, possession of unauthorized passwords, disruptive or annoying behavior on the computer, and non-work related utilization of computer software and hardware;
  19.  Conviction of a crime;
  20. Engaging in activities which violate either the state’s or the University’s code of ethics.Violating these rules is cause for disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. A supervisor’s failure to enforce a rule does not excuse an employee from complying with it, not does it prevent the University from taking disciplinary action thereafter.Nothing in this policy constrains the University from pursuing criminal prosecution in addition to dealing with or responding to issues administratively.For questions about which disciplinary action to take in a given situation, please consult with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations at .Additional guidance is provided in the appropriate collective bargaining agreement and the University’s pre-disciplinary and disciplinary procedures.

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SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITY

Supervisors are responsible for the uniform application of agency policies relating to employee conduct and discipline.  Each supervisor is also responsible for maintaining standards of work performance and, when necessary, for issuing specific disciplinary actions.

To insure that discipline is applied consistently, supervisors contemplating disciplinary actions, whether for classified or non‑classified employees must consult IN ADVANCE with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations.  This requirement does not prevent a supervisor from sending an employee home while he/she investigates charges.  Whether one sent an employee home or not would depend on the nature of the incident, and the availability of an alternative assignment.  The status of an employee sent off duty must be clarified by a letter, composed with Labor Relations, sent within 48 hours.

Under the Loudermill decision the final decision to discipline an employee is made by the appointing authority or his/her designee in consultation with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations. It is the job of each supervisor, dean, or department head to recommend a suggested course of action and to consult with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations at the very outset of disciplinary problems. In most cases the manager will conduct the investigatory process in its entirety.

When recommending discipline, the following factors should be considered: the employee’s work history, the effect of the offense on the operations of the organization; the seriousness of the offense in light of the employee’s duties and responsibilities, the employee’s level in the organization and the effect of the employee’s behavior on other employees, students, or the public; the circumstances surrounding the offense; and previous measures taken to correct the employee.

A good guideline to follow is to take that disciplinary action which may reasonably be expected to correct the problem and maintain general discipline and morale.

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PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS

Service ratings are a critical tool for supervisors since they offer a unique opportunity to document employees’ strengths and weaknesses on at least an annual basis.  They are referenced in this manual on progressive discipline because ongoing performance problems, such as poor quality of work or a lack of cooperation, must be addressed ultimately in a performance evaluation.

The impact of an unsatisfactory rating is very direct. The classified employee may be denied his/her annual increment, and two consecutive unsatisfactory ratings may lead to dismissal.  For the classified employee, there may be a direct impact on merit distribution.  Because of the serious consequences of an unsatisfactory rating, supervisors must ensure that counseling and a written warning precede an unsatisfactory evaluation.  Supervisors must have relative and supporting documentation before an unsatisfactory rating can be given.  This provides the employee with an awareness of both the need to improve and information about the method to do so.

Before giving an employee a less than good overall rating, a supervisor should be able to answer the following questions affirmatively:

  • Is the work the employee is performing in accordance with the class specification?
  • Have the weaknesses and the reasons for them been discussed with the employee?  Has specific counseling occurred and can it be documented? Has the employee been provided with remedial training and instruction?
  • Has the employee been warned in writing that an unsatisfactory service rating would result if performance did not improve to a certain level, by a specific date?  Does the supervisor have complete counseling notes in the prescribed format?
  • Is the rating an objective evaluation based on established performance standards?  Were
  • these standards shared with the employee?
  • Does the rating reflect the employee’s performance during the entire rating period rather than just the most immediate past?
  • Does the employee expect a less than good evaluation?

Procedure for Filing

For permanent classified employees, an unsatisfactory evaluation must be completed at least three months prior to the employee’s annual increment date (i.e. MARCH 15TH FOR JULY A.I.’s AND  SEPTEMBER 15TH FOR JANUARY A.I.’s).  For probationary employees, a less than good report must be filed not later than one month before the end of the working test period, but may be done at any time prior to that, if necessary.  Supervisors may also request that the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations arrange for the extension of the working test period for situations where it is felt more training or closer supervision will bring a marginal employee to a satisfactory level.

The rating supervisor should consult with the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations concerning preparation and review procedures.  Supervisors should arrange to meet with the employee in order to present and discuss the evaluation.

The various contracts covering University employees address less than good ratings very specifically.  Please review those sections as you prepare the evaluations.

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ATTENDANCE POLICY FOR CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES
Effective January 2004

Regular attendance of employees is necessary in order to accomplish the work of any department or component of the University.  Continuity of service coverage and production all rely on the dependability of staff to be at work on a regular basis.  Therefore the following procedure is established for the review of attendance on a quarterly and annual basis:

1. Definitions

A. Absenteeism:  Failure to report to work or to remain at work as scheduled regardless of reason.  Please note that this excludes previously approved non-sick leave time off (i.e. vacation, personal leave, compensatory leave, military leave, etc).
B. Tardiness:  Failure to report for duty at the time scheduled and/or failure to return to duty promptly at any point during their normal schedule.  (Note:  the management of tardiness as a disciplinary issue is address in a separate policy statement)
C. Unauthorized Leave:  Failure to report an absence of any duration according to University procedure or being absent from work without proper authorization.  Recorded as 0 time on time reports.  A report of 0 time necessitates the docking of pay.
D. Occasion of Absence:  One continuous period of absence for the same reason and/or period of absenteeism related to a single cause, support be acceptable medical documentation.
E. Medical Certification:  A document prescribed by the University of Connecticut, signed by a licensed practitioner or other practitioner whose method of healing is recognized by the State, and acceptable to the appointing authority.  (These forms can be obtained by contacting Mary Ann Lally, Leave Administrator in the Department of Human Resources at 486-5734 or 5684)

2. Standards

Attendance at the level of good or better is a basic performance standard at the University of Connecticut.  People who routinely exceed this expectation should be commended on an annual basis, with appropriate documentation placed in the official personnel files.

3. Procedure

The attendance records of all permanent staff will be reviewed on a quarterly basis.  Records of non-permanent employees will be reviewed monthly until permanent status is acquired.

Two or more occasions of sick leave within a three-month period requires that the supervisor and employee meet and discuss the reasons for the absences.  Under the guidelines for progressive discipline, this should be considered as counseling.  This is not punitive, but should serve to advise the employee of the importance placed on dependable attendance while not impacting the employees record.

In reviewing the absenteeism, the supervisor will consider the following criteria:

 

a. number of days taken
d. employee’s past record
b. number of occurances
e. extenuating circumstances
c. pattern of usage
f. reasons for sick leave

If an employee must have a series of medical or dental appointments to treat a single illness or injury, or as a follow-up to surgery, the employee should first attempt to schedule appointments outside of working hours.  If that isnt possible, the series shall be considered one occasion of absence provided that:

  1. the employee provides a statement from the physician giving a diagnosis and stating a treatment program is required with an indication of the expected number of visits;
  2. advance notice of the appointments is given to the employee’s supervisor.

NOTE: In reviewing an employee’s record to determine whether an employee’s sick leave use is excessive, the supervisor needs to be consistent with the collective bargaining unit contract language (for example, in the NP-3 clerical contract, an occasion of sick leave is defined as any one continuous period of unscheduled absence for the same reason.  In the NP-2 maintenance contract, sick leave taken for funerals or in the event of a serious illness or injury to a member of the immediate family which creates an emergency is not considered an occasion of sick leave.)

An eligible employee will be granted sick leave:

  1. when the employee is incapacitated from performing work due to illness or injury, recorded as “S” on time reports;
  2. for employees only, medical, dental or eye examination or treatment for which arrangements cannot be made outside of working hours, as noted above.  Such arrangements should be scheduled after work whenever possible, recorded as “SP” on time reports;
  3. in the event of death in the immediate family when as much as three (3) working days leave with pay, will be granted for each occurrence.  Immediate family means husband, wife, father, mother, domestic partner, sister, brother or child and also any relative who is domiciled in the employee’s household, recorded as “FF” on time reports. A domestic partner is a person who has qualified for domestic partnership benefits under the parties pension and health care agreement;
  4. in the event of serious illness or injury to a member of the immediate family creating an emergency, provided that not more than three (3) or five (5) days of sick leave per calendar year, depending on the bargaining unit, will be granted, recorded as “SF” on time reports;
  5. for going to, attending, and returning from funerals of persons other than members of the immediate family, if notice is given in advance and provided that not more than three (3) days of sick leave per calendar year will be granted, recorded as “F” on time reports.

The attached chart A will be used for quarterly reviews.  Chart B reflects the annual evaluation standards and should be considered an extension of the quarterly chart.

Two quarters of fair or unsatisfactory attendance may be cause for issuing a written warning.  An employee who has received a written warning and who continues to make excessive use of sick leave may be placed on a medical certificate requirement.  (A reasonable amount of time would be if the proceeding quarterly report is fair or unsatisfactory).  The purpose of requiring medical documentation is to encourage the employee to seek appropriate treatment for each occasion of illness.

The employee must be notified in writing of such medical certificate requirement.  At the point that a person is placed on medical certificate requirement, he/she should be advised in writing that the use of vacation, holiday, or “T” time will be subject to advance approval requirements as specified in the relevant contracts.  The employee will also be advised that he/she may receive an unsatisfactory evaluation in the area of attendance.

If an employee fails to produce an acceptable* medical certificate, he/she shall be charged with unauthorized leave of absence without pay.  The employee’s attendance record will be reviewed in accordance with the appropriate collective bargaining unit contract.  This review will be conducted to determine whether the medical certificate requirement should be rescinded.

Following the receipt of an unsatisfactory rating, the supervisor will meet with the employee following each occasion of absence to discuss the reason for the absenteeism.  Quarterly evaluations will continue to be done.  A single quarter with a fair or unsatisfactory rating may necessitate that another warning letter be sent stating that a second unsatisfactory rating due to poor attendance may result and this will be considered cause for DISMISSAL FROM EMPLOYMENT.

Failure to comply with the standards established for a satisfactory evaluation during any two of any four quarters may result in a second unsatisfactory performance evaluation, and this will be considered cause for DISMISSAL.

This policy does not preclude additional or separate disciplinary action for instances of unauthorized leave, tardiness or fraudulent use of sick time or other cause.

As supervisors implement this policy, they should review the relevant contract language for the employee’s bargaining unit.

*  The Department of Human Resources Leave Administrator will determine if the medical certificate is acceptable.

Sample Written Warning (Relating to Attendance)

Sample Medical Certificate Requirement Letter

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Chart A
For Quarterly Evaluations
Number of Days
No. of Occasions
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0
E
1
V
G
G
G
G
G
2
F
U
U
U
U
3
U
U
U
U
4
U
U
U
5
U
U
6
U

Chart B
Annual Sick Leave Usage Table Number of Days:(horizontally) Number of Occasions:(vertically)

/ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
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DEALING WITH THE INSUBORDINATE EMPLOYEE

Although INSUBORDINATION is one of the most serious forms of employee misconduct, the term itself and the methods available to deal with this problem are frequently misunderstood.  Acts of insubordination should not be confused with other forms of employee misconduct.  Specifically, an act of insubordination is defined as:

“An employee’s refusal to carry out a direct job related work order given by an administrator or supervisor of appropriate authority.”

Other forms of employee misconduct including abusive or argumentative actions towards his/her supervisor should be dealt with through disciplinary actions including written warnings and written reprimands and later used as the basis for the issuance of a “Less than Good” service rating report under the general categories of “Ability to Deal with People” or “Cooperation.”

CONDITIONS WHICH MUST BE PRESENT FOR AN ACT OF INSUBORDINATION:

  • The order or direction must be clearly communicated by the supervisor;
  • The order or direction must have been given by an individual with the authority to give such an order;
  • The employee must have a clear understanding that the person giving the order had the authority to do so;
  • The order cannot subject the employee to an unhealthy or unsafe working condition beyond that which would normally be expected of his/her position;
  • The order cannot direct the employee to commit an illegal act; and
  • The employee must have clearly refused to carry out the directive.

STATEMENTS WHICH MUST BE MADE BY THE SUPERVISOR PRIOR TO CHARGING AN EMPLOYEE WITH AN ACT OF INSUBORDINATION:

Statement A:  That the employee’s refusal to carry out the order will be considered as an act of insubordination.

Statement B:  The employee is warned that failure to carry out directive will be grounds for serious disciplinary action
including suspension or dismissal.

Statement C:  Following Statements “A” and “B”, that the employee is directed, again, to
perform the task.

USUAL ORDER OF EVENTS:

  1. Employee refuses to perform task.
  2. Supervisor questions employee to determine reason(s) for refusal.
  3. Supervisor evaluates situation, and if decision is made that employee’s concerns do not outweigh need to perform task(s), explains reasons for decision to employee and, again, directs employee to perform.
  4. Asks employee if he/she is prepared to perform task.
  5. If employee again refuses, or otherwise indicates unwillingness to perform task, supervisor takes the following steps:
    • States to employee that refusal to perform will be considered to be an act of insubordination;
    • Warns employee that failure to perform will subject himself/herself to serious discipline including suspension or dismissal;
    • Once again directs employee to perform task; and
    • Follows up to determine if task actually has been performed.

If the employee still refuses to perform the task, the supervisor will relieve employee of duty and confer with appropriate administrative staff and the University’s Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations.

Depending upon circumstances, the employee will receive a notice of discipline generally at the level of suspension or discharge.

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GENERAL POINTS TO CONSIDER

The most common excuse for not complying with a direct order is, “You can’t make me do this, it’s not within my job description.”  Supervisors are reminded that job descriptions are written to be descriptive but not necessarily inclusive of all functions performed.

If the employee feels that the directive required tasks outside the scope of his/her job classification, he/she has contractual rights to grieve the issue.  An employee does not have the right, however, to refuse a job‑related work order on the basis that such order was outside the scope of his/her job responsibilities.  Should this occur, it is helpful to remind employees that the generally accepted rule is “work now, grieve later.”

A refusal to carry out a work order (not to be confused with reasonable questioning and discussion between supervisor and employee) is a demonstration of poor cooperation.  If an employee refuses to carry out a directive, but finally concedes, this fact should be recorded by written notes and/or memorandum and incorporated into a service rating report.  Repeated offenses, coupled with counseling and warning, may be cause for unsatisfactory service ratings.

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DROP DURING WORKING TEST PERIOD

Sperl Conference for Classified Employees

An individual who is dropped during his/her initial working test period has the opportunity for a conference with a University designee following the notice of dismissal.  This procedure derives from a Connecticut Board of Labor Relations decision (No. 1729 issued March 16, 1979) which requires that a process be established that affords the complainant “a reasonable opportunity to present his side of the case.”  The employee should be advised of his/her right to request a meeting in the letter of notification.  It should be noted that a conference is held only if requested; it is not an automatic system.

The Manager of Labor Relations or his designee conducts the conference for classified employees.  A representative from the department’s administrative group and a person in the supervisory chain are generally included.  The employee may bring a representative of his/her choice.

The charge to the reviewer is to insure that the drop was not done arbitrarily or capriciously.  It is important to maintain documentation of training or orientation activities, and/or notes on counseling or any other corrective actions you or your staff undertook to assist the probationary employee.  The conference itself is informal and generally not adversarial in tone.  The dropped employee gets a written response from the person that conducted the conference.

For unclassified staff, Article 20.6 of the UCPEA contract provides:

“A probationary employee who is dismissed, or who is not continued, may appeal in person within ten (10) days to the office of the appropriate Provost, Vice Provost, Vice President, or designee.  The decision of the Provost, Vice Provost, Vice President, or designee is final and not appealable to arbitration.”

Administrators who are called to serve in such appeals should contact the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations at 486-5684 immediately.

For faculty, promotion and retention issues are addressed exclusively within the PTR process established by the By-Laws.

  Sample Letter of Drop During Working Test Period

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A FINAL WORD

Researchers have found that the most fundamental factors in effective supervision is trust and confidence on the part of both the supervisor and the employee.  Trust and confidence are developed by adhering to the standards of consistency, fairness, and reasonableness in all work relationships.  The fact that these same principles guide the course of progressive discipline should come as no surprise.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Faculty and Staff Labor Relations with any questions about the application of this information.  We look forward to working with you.

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