Disciplining employees is a difficult part of supervision and management. It is important that you address performance issue as they arise and pursue a progressive approach to discipline
Supervisors are encouraged to take a progressive approach to discipline. When you become aware of a problem, speak to the employee and specify to him/her the deficiencies you wish to see corrected and how corrective action is to be undertaken. If the employee has not improved sufficiently after a reasonable period of time, then it may be appropriate to give the employee a written reprimand which formally explains the reasons for your dissatisfaction. If there continues to be insufficient improvement, then it may be appropriate to give the employee an unpaid suspension.
Taking a progressive approach may not be appropriate or necessary in some circumstances. Examples include serious misconduct such as theft or physical violence.
Conducting an Investigation
It is important to conduct an investigation prior to deciding whether or not to take disciplinary action. This includes giving the employee an opportunity to respond to the facts which cause you to believe that discipline is warranted.
If the employee is covered by a collective negotiations agreement, he/she may request that a steward be present if he/she is being questioned and has a reasonable belief that the answer to such questions will result in discipline. If you consider taking disciplinary action against a staff employee covered by a collective negotiations agreement, you should refer to the applicable agreement to ensure that the proposed disciplinary action conforms to the terms of the agreement. For example, if you intend to take into consideration a particular prior disciplinary action taken against a person covered by the agreement with AFSCME Local 888, you will need to ensure that that disciplinary action is not deemed to have been removed (e.g., a letter of reprimand is deemed to be removed from an employee’s record if the employee’s record is free from any further disciplinary action for a period of one year).
Letter of Discipline
When you give an employee a letter of discipline, the employee should be asked to acknowledge, by signature, that he or she has read the letter. Two copies should be sent to the Office of Labor Relations, ASB II, G.H. Cook Campus, for placement into the official University personnel file and Office of Labor Relations files. If the employee is covered by a collective negotiations agreement, you should refer to the applicable collective negotiations agreement to ascertain the requirements for notification of the union. For example, the collective negotiations agreement with AFSCME Local 888 provides that a copy of any written reprimand is to be provided to the steward, if known, and to the President (New Brunswick) or the Vice President (Newark and Camden).
If you are considering suspension of an employee who is not eligible for overtime premium payments (e.g., “NL” employees), a suspension without pay must generally be for a full workweek.