Discipline

 

The decision to discipline or dismiss an employee from the University is one that should not be made in haste and should always be made in consultation with the Employee Relations staff of the Office of Human Resources.

Every disciplinary situation is unique and has serious implications both for the employee and the University in terms of how the disciplinary action is administered.

  • Supervisors and managers should adopt a progressive approach to discipline. What that means is that the disciplinary action taken generally starts at the lowest appropriate level. If an offenses is not so serious such that it warrants immediate termination, a supervisor might begin by counseling the employee, then moving to an oral warning and next to a written warning. Employee Relations staff can assist supervisors in determining the first step and in the preparation of appropriate corrective actions to address the issue.
  • For more serious issues or ones in which the above described actions have been unsuccessful in improving employee performance or changing behavior, supervisors may need to use suspension, demotion, or dismissal. None of these three actions may be taken without first consulting with Human Resources.
  • The decision to use suspension, demotion, or dismissal must never be taken lightly and must be carefully investigated before proceeding. These three actions require a two step process that must be followed. For specifics on the required process supervisors and managers must follow when considering action against Classified staff, please consult the University’s Discipline and Dismissal Policy Section III, paragraphs C through E.
  • In accordance with University policy, employees may grieve or appeal (depending on the action taken) disciplinary actions. When disciplinary actions are necessary, employees should be advised of their rights under the Grievance Policy and the Discipline and Dismissal Policy.
  • Employees who are in their probation period at UT Dallas fall under a different policy. The Probationary Employee Discipline and Dismissal Policy stipulates that classified employees who have not served their 180 day probation period can be dismissed during this period. In addition to completing the required new employee evaluations during the first, third and before the end of the classified employee’s sixth month, the employees should have a clear understanding of the supervisor’s expectations, the supervisor has communicated these expectations to the employee, the supervisor has provided feedback to employee on necessary corrective actions that must be made in order to be successful in their job, and the supervisor has maintained appopirate documentation during the employee’s probationary period. In other words, supervisors and managers should be thoughtful and proactive and will always consult first with Human Resources before taking any disciplinary actions against an employee in the probation period.

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Dallas to encourage fair, efficient and equitable solutions for problems arising out of the employment relationship and to meet the requirements of state and federal law. The above guidelines and cited policies reflect the efforts of Human Resources to ensure that such actions take place. All Classified and Administrative and Professional staff are at-will employees who serve without tenure. No provision of any UT Dallas policy shall confer rights to employees that are contrary to the employment-at-will doctrine.

Coaching, counseling and correction describe a progressive approach to applying the University’s disciplinary policy. When disciplinary actions are needed, supervisors should adopt a progressive approach to correcting the performance or behavioral issue. For a sample but non exhaustive list of performance and behavioral issues that may result in disciplinary action, please consult Section III B of the Discipline and Dismissal Policy.

Generally speaking, a supervisor begins a disciplinary action at the lowest level. If that is unsuccessful in remedying the problem, the supervisor might move to the next level, repeat the same process, or even skip a level. It all would depend upon the facts of the case at hand. In the case of a situation where an employee’s performance or behavior has become sufficiently severe, the supervisor may have to implement immediate termination. In such cases, a supervisor must consult with Employee Relations staff before starting dismissal actions against the employee.

Coaching

Coaching is what it appears to be. A supervisor meets with an employee. The purpose of the meeting is straightforward —performance is not what it should be. The focus of the coaching session is to determine what needs to be done to help the employee improve performance or correct inappropriate workplace behaviors. The supervisor (i.e.: the coach) and the employee map out plan of action. The employee implements the plan. The supervisor monitors the process —recognizing success and offering constructive feedback if the performance is still lagging where it should be. A good tool for coaching employees when they are having some performance problems is the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP.)

Counseling

Counseling is similar to coaching in that it shares the same goal, improving performance and/or stopping inappropriate workplace behaviors. With counseling, however, the meeting between the supervisor and the employee takes on a different feel. In such meetings the supervisor attempts to understand and identify the issues contributing to the performance or behavioral problem. Accordingly, in a counseling meeting, the supervisor is focused on listening, verifying their understanding of the problem and engaging in problem solving with the employee. Like the coaching transaction, the supervisor and the employee leave the counseling meeting with a corrective plan in mind. Counseling is letting the employee know that the supervisor takes the issue seriously and wants to help them get past it. At the same time, the message is clear from the supervisor —the employee’s performance must improve, behaviors must change, or more serious steps will have to be taken.

Correction

This part of the disciplinary process features increasingly formal and more serious efforts to correct the problem. Such corrective actions tend to follow a fairly common pattern. The supervisor then escalates the intervention depending upon the response of employee or the seriousness of the issue being addressed.

  • Oral Warning

    An oral warning is a discussion between the supervisor and the employee which identifies the problem issue and communicates a clear expectation that changes must be forthcoming or more a more serious disciplinary step will follow. The next step does not automatically follow but in many cases an oral warning that is not heeded results in the next step.

  • Written Warning

    A written warning is a formal document created by the supervisor and given to the employee. The written warning is used when previous efforts to correct the deficient performance or behavior has failed. Depending upon the circumstances, a problem may be sufficiently severe such that a supervisor decides to move directly to a written warning. Written warnings are signed by the employee and supervisor. If witnesses are present, they too sign the warning. A copy of the warning is sent to Human Resources where it is placed in the employee’s personnel file.

  • Suspension, Demotion, Dismissal

    These three actions represent the most serious steps in the disciplinary process because they result in serious job-altering consequences for the employee. Typically, they would be implemented only after the other efforts have been unsuccessful.

Supervisors must consult with Employee Relations staff before administering any of the above corrective actions. Various forms of technical assistance and training and are available.

Documentation

Documentation is necessary to support the discipline imposed. Supervisors who cannot provide documentation may be asked to defer imposing some disciplinary actions. All the above corrective actions should always be documented. Good documentation is imperative in today’s workplace. Contact Employee Relations staff for guidelines on documenting disciplinary actions.

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Dallas to encourage fair, efficient and equitable solutions for problems arising out of the employment relationship and to meet the requirements of state and federal law. The above guidelines and cited policies reflect the efforts of Human Resources to ensure that such actions take place. All Classified and Administrative and Professional staff are at-will employees who serve without tenure. No provision of any UT Dallas policy shall confer rights to employees that are contrary to the employment-at-will doctrine.

Every employee of the University is expected to know and understand the performance criteria for their particular job with all rules, procedures and standards of conduct. Employees who do not fulfill the responsibilities set out by such performance criteria, rules, procedures and standards of conduct may be subject to adverse personnel actions such as suspension, demotion, or dismissal. Certain employees may not fall under the scope of this University policy. For specifics as to who is covered, consult Section II of the Discipline and Dismissal Policy.

The decision to take one of these actions should not be made in haste. It requires serious attention and action. Such decisions should always be made in consultation with the Employee Relations staff of Human Resources.

Conduct Subject to Suspension, Demotion, or Dismissal
  • The failure of an employee to maintain satisfactory work standards can constitute cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal. Work performance includes all aspects of the employee’s work.
  • Employees who fail to maintain standards of conduct suitable and acceptable to the work environment can also constitute cause for disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Supervisors who are considering suspension, demotion, or dismissal must carefully investigate the matter before proceeding to action. All three disciplinary actions require a two step process that must be followed. This following information is a summary of the Discipline and Dismissal Policy, Section III, paragraphs C through E.

  • Notice of Intent

    According to University policy, the supervisor will conduct a “predisciplinary hearing” to inform the employee of the supervisors intent to proceed with a disciplinary action of suspension, demotion, or dismissal. This “hearing” should be informal. It may be communicated in person or in writing and should include the proposed disciplinary action and the basis for this proposed action. The employee must be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the supervisor and provide evidence why the proposed disciplinary action should be rescinded.

  • Final Notice

    Once the employee responds to the supervisor’s notice of intended action, it is up to the supervisor to review the response and determine if the evidence presented is sufficiently compelling to rescind the intended action. If they are not persuaded by reasons offered by the employee, the supervisor will notify Human Resources staff and obtain the approval of the appropriate department head or equivalent before proceeding with the proposed disciplinary penalty. Once all notifications and approvals are made, the supervisor will, in writing, inform the employee of the decision to impose the penalty along with the reasons for the disciplinary action, effective date, and the employee’s right of appeal.

Classified employees have the right to appeal a disciplinary action involving one the above three actions. Employees should review Section IV of the Discipline and Dismissal Policy. Employee Relations staff from Human Resources are available to assist the employee and answer questions about their rights and the appeal process under the University policy.

The University of Texas at Dallas is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action University. As such, every employee of UT Dallas should expect to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. In addition, every employee should understand their responsibility to treat others in the same manner.

Grievance Process

Under the University’s Grievance Policy, employees have the right to register a complaint or file a grievance related to wages, hours of work, working conditions, performance evaluations, merit raises, job assignments, reprimands, and the interpretation or application of a rule, regulation or policy. For specifics on the nature, format and procedures to follow, please consult the policy. The grievance is fundamentally a departmental process. As such, Human Resources does not administer the grievance process. We are, however, available to consult with employees in reviewing options, alternatives and procedures related to the grievance process at UT Dallas.

A student, faculty, or staff member who retaliates in any way against an individual who has brought a grievance pursuant to this policy or who has participated in good faith in preparing, presenting or investigating a grievance, is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University.

Appealing a Suspension, Demotion, or Dismissal

University policy also provides certain employees the right to appeal disciplinary actions involving suspension, demotion, or dismissal. The Discipline and Dismissal Policy provides specific steps for employees who are subject to one of these personnel actions to appeal the process. Employees should review the policy for more information. University policy specifies that not all positions at UT Dallas have access to this provision of the policy. Consult Section II of the policy to review the scope and limitations of this policy provision.

The University is committed to equitable treatment of all employees. Employees who have questions or concerns about their rights, the scope of these policies, or the procedures to follow are encouraged to contact the Employee Relations staff of the Office of Human Resources.