The Disciplinary Process

On occasion, situations occur in the work environment that challenge the spirit of cooperation or result in an unacceptable level of job performance. To assist employees in meeting the expectations of the College, supervisors are expected to instruct employees in proper procedure and to remind employees of appropriate behavior. If these measures do not produce the necessary improvements, higher levels of disciplinary action may be appropriate. The five steps of Haverford's progressive disciplinary process are listed below. However, when a situation is particularly serious, immediate action initiated at step 4 or step 5, may be appropriate:

1) Verbal warning
2) First written warning
3) Subsequent or final written warnings
4) Suspension without pay
5) termination

Progressive disciplinary action provides an opportunity and timetable to correct misunderstood directions, eliminate incorrect assumptions and resolve conflicts. In such instances, the supervisor must consult the Director of Human Resources. A more detailed explanation of each disciplinary step is provided below:

Verbal Warning. Verbal warnings are given to correct areas of unsatisfactory work performance and to clarify work rules and policy. Whenever possible, they should be given in private, with the supervisor clearly stating the reason for the warning and with the employee having the opportunity to discuss and/or refute the action. The supervisor must make clear his/her expectations for change from the employee. The supervisor should maintain an informal record of this meeting within the department.

First Written Warning. A written warning is issued after a verbal warning for a repeated infraction or for a more serious first incident. The written warning is a formal, detailed record of what occurred and it must include the supervisor's expectations for improvement. The employee must be given a copy of the warning and the opportunity to discuss or refute the factual information and may attach his/her written comments.

The employee should be asked to sign the original warning as an acknowledgment of having read and understood the document. An employee's signature does not indicate agreement with the warning. It only acknowledges understanding and receipt. The supervisor should maintain this documentation at the departmental level until s/he feels it is appropriate or necessary to involve the Director of Human Resources. All documentation will be placed in the employee's personnel file and the employee should be notified of this action. In the event that an employee refuses to sign a warning the supervisor should note the refusal on the document and should notify the Director of Human Resources of the refusal.

Subsequent or Final Written warning. The nature of the occurrence warranting discipline is the primary factor in determining whether there should be, or the number of, further written warnings. The process is the same as above. A written warning may also be a final warning before termination of employment. In this case, the documentation must clearly state that a further occurrence will result in termination.

Suspension without pay. In some situations termination will follow the Final Written Warning. In other situations, following verbal and written warnings, the supervisor might think it worthwhile to reinforce the seriousness of a problem and at the same time provide the employee with a final opportunity for contemplation and corrective action when the only other alternative is termination. In such cases, the supervisor should review all the facts from the original warning(s) and discussions, and present the situation to the Director of Human Resources. If the Director of Human Resources agrees that suspension could be helpful in bringing about an appropriate change in behavior, the employee will be suspended for a period generally not to exceed 3 days.

The employee should be informed of his or her suspension without pay at a private meeting in which the supervisor explains the suspension, how it works, and why the supervisor feels it is necessary. The supervisor should explain that while the suspension is without pay, the employee's medical and other benefits not dependent on salary will continue during the suspension period as an indication of the College's hope of returning to a productive working relationship with the employee.

Termination. At times, the only disciplinary option is termination. Disciplinary termination may follow from any of the following:

1) A final written warning for repeated infractions or unsatisfactory work performances.
2) A suspension.
3) Any incident of misconduct which could threaten the physical or mental well being of members of the College community or the reputation, standing or assets of the College.

These steps, along with a list of unacceptable behaviors, are described more fully in A Guide for Supervisors, which is available in the Human Resources Office.


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