Disciplinary Actions, Suspension, and Termination of Employment

Number:

3.6.3 

Policy/Procedure Name:

Disciplinary Actions, Suspension, and Termination of Employment

Sponsor:

Kathy McKinley
Executive Director, Human Resources

Custodian:

Human Resources

Effective Date:

April 3, 2018

Next Review Date:

2019-2020

Location:

durhamtech.edu/policies-and-procedures/disciplinary-action

Citation:

1C 1C SBCCC 200.94; N.C.G.S. 90-95

 

Policy Statement

Durham Technical Community College provides supervisors and employees a fair, clear, and useful tool for correcting and improving performance issues, including a process to assist supervisors in handling cases of unacceptable personal conduct. Any disciplinary action taken in accordance with this policy must be for just cause under at least one of the two following bases: (1) discipline imposed based on unsatisfactory job performance including gross inefficiency, or (2) discipline imposed based on unacceptable personal conduct.

Procedure

The State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC) requires each college’s Board of Trustees to establish policies and procedures related to employee disciplinary actions. Durham Tech’s Disciplinary Actions, Suspension, and Termination of Employment policy sets forth fair, reasonable, and equitable processes to address concerns related to individual employee performance, behavior, and/or violations of College policies, procedures, or standards of professional conduct.

The objectives of this policy are as follows:

  • To maintain a set of standards for performance and behavior that is reasonable, fair, and equitably applied;

  • To communicate standards for employee performance and behavior that support the College’s mission, vision, and values;

  • To prescribe corrective actions and outline disciplinary measures to be taken when employee performance or behavior is not in keeping with expectations and requirements; and

  • To provide affirmative feedback when the employee’s performance or behavior changes to meet expectations.

Progressive Steps for Performance Improvement

The following conditions must be in place before any disciplinary action can occur:

  • The supervisor should be satisfied that the employee clearly understands the expectations of employment. These expectations are specifically delineated in the employee’s job description and more generally described in the Employee Handbook and other College policies and procedures;

  • The supervisor should ensure the employee has access to, and knowledge of, policies, procedures, professional development, and training opportunities; and a work environment conducive to carrying out assigned job duties and responsibilities; and

  • The supervisor will present documentation of just cause for disciplinary action to the director of Human Resources. The appropriate department head or division head must endorse a disciplinary action request.

Just Cause for Disciplinary Action

The bases for the discipline or termination of an employee are the following:

  • Unsatisfactory job performance or gross inefficiency in job performance;

  • Violation of published College policies or failure to adhere to College procedures; or

  • Unacceptable personal conduct

Certain actions by an employee may fall under one or more categories. When just cause exists, any employee of the College, regardless of position, may be subject to disciplinary action by the President. These disciplinary actions may include the following:

  • Oral or written warnings

  • Suspension with pay

  • Suspension without pay

  • Demotion or departmental transfer (only for unsatisfactory or gross inefficiency in job performance)

  • Termination

Depending upon the nature of the misconduct or the severity of the unsatisfactory job performance, an employee may be subject to a final written warning or immediate termination from the College without going through progressive disciplinary steps.

An employee’s direct supervisor has the responsibility for evaluating an employee’s job performance throughout the year and if the need arises, holding periodic coaching and development sessions to discuss ways to improve current job performance. Annually, during the evaluation process, the supervisor and employee will have face-to-face meetings emphasizing strengths and areas needing improvement. The supervisor should document any performance and/or disciplinary issues on the employee’s Performance Review and Evaluation Form and transition him/her into performance management, if necessary.

Performance Management Options

The following performance management options will be applied according to whether the circumstances involve unsatisfactory job performance (or gross inefficiency) or unacceptable personal conduct. Please refer to the definitions section at the end of this document for more information.

Performance Management Options

Applicable for Unsatisfactory Job Performance or Gross Inefficiency

Applicable for Unacceptable Personal Conduct

1. Oral Warning

Yes

Yes

2. First Written Warning

Yes

Yes

   Work Action Plan*

Yes

No

3. Final Written Warning

Yes

Yes

 

  1. Oral Warning – An Oral Warning will consist of a coaching session where the supervisor articulates, models, and reinforces expected performance and addresses (a) performance deficiencies, (b) behavior concerns, including attendance and tardiness, and (c) violations of policies, standards of professional conduct, and safety practices. The intent of this disciplinary action is to focus on the employee’s development through a process that reflects a mutual commitment to the employee’s success and should occur within five (5) working days of the correlating event. The supervisor is responsible for documenting the warning and maintaining the documentation in his or her internal department file. The supervisor should use the Disciplinary Action Notice Form for all levels of the performance management process. A disciplinary action should occur when a current unresolved incident of unsatisfactory job performance exists.

  2. First Written Warning – The supervisor initiates a written warning when there are ongoing performance problems, behavior concerns, more serious violations, and/or a recurrence of prior violations. At the First Written Warning phase, the supervisor advises the employee of the seriousness of the matter. If there are no extenuating circumstances, the supervisor communicates with the employee verbally and in writing within five (5) working days of the precipitating action or event. A work action plan* may also be assigned at this time to address job performance concerns with immediate need for improvement. The First Written Warning will also communicate to the employee the corrective action expected and the corresponding timeframe. The supervisor is responsible for documenting this step in the performance improvement process and reviewing the documentation and written warning with the director of Human Resources prior to presenting and discussing it with the employee. This documentation becomes part of the employee’s file maintained by his or her supervisor. A copy signed by the supervisor and employee, acknowledging receipt of the warning and discussion of the precipitating action, concern, or event, must be sent to the director of Human Resources for placement in the employee’s personnel file.

*A work action plan is intended to address inadequate job performance concerns that do not improve after the First Written Warning stage. Supervisors must consult with the director of Human Resources before developing a work action plan. The supervisor, the director of Human Resources, and the appropriate department and division heads will then collaboratively determine the specific items to be included in the work action plan, and will ensure the plan addresses the specific areas of unsatisfactory job performance and is consistent with the employee’s position description. The supervisor shall use the Work Action Plan Form to document the process.

The work action plan must include biweekly meetings between the employee and the supervisor to discuss progress in implementing the plan. The director of Human Resources will also attend each biweekly meeting to ensure plan goals are achievable and reasonable and that the employee is given the opportunity to improve his or her job performance. The work action plan should allow reasonable time (typically three months) for the employee to improve and meet the plan’s goals and directives. A supervisor may propose an extension to the plan; the director of Human Resources will determine if the extension is warranted.

At the end of the work action plan, the supervisor, the director of Human Resources, and the appropriate department/division head will determine whether the employee has met the plan’s goals. Based on the outcome of the work action plan, Human Resources and the supervisor will either end the work action plan or recommend a course of action to the President. The President will determine if an extended work action plan is warranted or take appropriate action.

A work action plan may not be appropriate and therefore not required when an employee violates College policies or procedures or engages in other unacceptable personal conduct.

     3. Final Written Warning – The supervisor, with consent by the director of Human Resources, issues a                       Final Written Warning when either of the following conditions exist:

  • Unacceptable egregious personal conduct; and/or

  • There is no improvement or resolution related to an employee’s performance deficiencies, behavior issues, or policy violations following a First Written Warning (This warning could be for the same violation as the First Written Warning.)

The supervisor is to inform the employee of the Final Written Warning in writing within five (5) working days of the precipitating action or event unless there are extenuating circumstances. Both the employee and supervisor must sign to acknowledge discussion and receipt of the Final Written Warning.

Documentation

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to document actions taken to address an employee’s alleged performance deficiency, behavior, and/or violation, including any fact-finding activities, discussion with the employee and other relevant parties, analyses and determination of findings, and follow-up actions. Supervisors should use the Disciplinary Action Notice form to track performance management steps.

Disciplinary Actions

The following disciplinary actions will be applied according to whether the circumstances involve unsatisfactory job performance (or gross inefficiency) or unacceptable personal conduct. Please refer to the definitions section at the end of this document for more information.

Disciplinary Suspension with Pay – An employee who has allegedly violated a College policy or procedure, standard of professional conduct, or safety guideline may be suspended or placed on administrative leave with pay by the President pending completion of an investigation.

As part of the investigation, the employee’s supervisor, department or division head, and the director of Human Resources must consider the following:

  • Whether clear expectations have been communicated to the employee;

  • Whether necessary policies, processes, and procedures have been followed;

  • Whether corrective action has been recommended;

  • Whether training has been accessible to the employee;

  • Whether the supervisor has documented the processes, procedures, corrective action, and training;

  • Whether the supervisor has documented the employee’s ongoing performance deficiencies, behavior issues, and/or violations;

  • Whether the supervisor has provided performance feedback; and/or

  • Whether the allegation could result in the President taking action to terminate employment with the College.

Disciplinary Suspension without Pay – If the President determines that an employee has committed a violation of College policies or procedures, a standard of professional conduct or safety practice, or engaged in other unacceptable behavior that, under normal circumstances, could warrant termination of employment, he or she may suspend the employee without pay for a period of time of his or her determination based on the employee’s violation and/or behavior.

Disciplinary Demotion – A disciplinary demotion is a non-performance-based disciplinary action. If the President determines that an employee has committed an egregious act in violation of a College policy or procedure, a standard of professional conduct or safety practice, or engaged in other unacceptable behavior that, under normal circumstances, could warrant termination of employment, the President may demote the employee and adjust his or her compensation accordingly.

Involuntary Transfer

An involuntary transfer is a performance-based disciplinary action. If the President determines that an employee does not have the skill set or is otherwise failing to meet his or her job expectations, the President may reassign the employee to another position or department and may adjust his or her compensation accordingly.

In order for an employee to be involuntarily transferred due to grossly inefficient job performance, he or she must have the following:

  • A current unresolved incident of grossly inefficient job performance; and

  • A failed work action plan that was implemented to correct job performance inefficiencies

In the event of an Involuntary transfer, a reduction in pay will occur if significant job duties have been removed.

Termination

Termination of employment may occur for any of the following reasons:

  • Failure, in the opinion of the President, to perform competently and/or in keeping with the administrative practices of the College and the duties assigned.

  • Work performance that fails to meet expectations.

  • Neglect of duties or failure to serve in capacities as directed by the administration (i.e., student advisor, committee member).

  • Failure to demonstrate progress in a work action plan within a reasonable amount of time.

  • Conduct unbecoming a member of the faculty or staff, provided that no such charge constitutes interference with academic freedom.

  • Conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude or a felony.

  • Violation of federal or state law.

  • Failure of an instructor to regularly attend scheduled classes and appointments.

  • Chronic absenteeism.

  • Insubordination, unprofessional conduct, or failure to cooperate with other employees to the extent that, in the opinion of the President, dissension interrupts the orderly performance of duties.

  • Directly or indirectly intimidating, harassing, bullying, threatening, or coercing an employee in any way.

  • Financial exigency or discontinuation of a program or position.

  • Failure to comply with rules, regulations, and policies of the State Board of Community Colleges, the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees, or lawful directives of the President or his or her designee.

  • Use of controlled substances during work hours or appearing at any time on College property under the influence of controlled substances in violation of the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act (N.C.G.S. 90-95).

  • Reporting to work or appearing at any time on College property under the influence of alcohol.

  • Violation of the Sexual Misconduct policy.

Please Note: An employee may also be terminated due to financial exigency or elimination of a program, service, or position. Please consult the Reduction in Force (RIF) policy for more information.

In order for an employee to be terminated from employment due to unsatisfactory job performance, he or she must have the following:

  • A current unresolved incident of unsatisfactory job performance; and

  • At least two prior active warnings or other disciplinary actions for unsatisfactory job performance or gross inefficiency, or unacceptable personal conduct.

The recommendation to the President to terminate an employee must be reviewed and supported by the supervisor’s department or division head and the director of Human Resources. The supervisor is responsible for documenting the employee’s actions and the supervisor’s efforts to support the employee in improving deficiencies, performance, and actions. Documentation in support of the employee’s termination must be reviewed and endorsed by the department or division head and the director of Human Resources. If the recommendation for the employee’s termination is supported by the supervisor’s documentation and determined to be warranted, the department or division head will forward it to the President for review and consideration. The President’s decision must be based on a thorough review of the actions and documentation of the progressive steps for performance improvement and must be consistent with all applicable College policies and procedures.

If the President supports the recommendation to terminate the employee, he or she will prepare and forward a notification letter to the director of Human Resources. The director of Human Resources and the employee’s supervisor will meet with the employee to deliver the letter and discuss the termination of employment, which will be effective as of the date of the meeting or as otherwise indicated in the letter of termination. The employee will also receive a copy of the letter via certified mail, and a copy will be placed in his or her Human Resources file.

Grievance Procedure

If an employee feels that the written conditions of employment or published regulations, policies, or procedures were inequitably applied in the impending disciplinary action and/or termination, the employee may seek resolution via the Employee Conflict Resolution and Grievance policy. The employee’s intent to grieve must be stated in writing to Human Resources within five (5) working days of receipt of the written notice of disciplinary action or dismissal. Human Resources will examine the request and then determine whether the established grievance procedure is appropriate.

Definitions

Biweekly – For the purposes of this policy, biweekly is defined as every two (2) weeks.

Covered Employees – All Durham Tech faculty and staff

Current Unresolved Incident – An act of unacceptable personal conduct, unsatisfactory job performance, or grossly inefficient job performance for which no disciplinary action has previously been taken by the College

Disciplinary Suspension with Pay – The temporary removal of an employee for disciplinary reasons or to investigate an allegation during which time he or she will receive pay

Disciplinary Suspension without Pay – The temporary removal of an employee from work for disciplinary reasons during which time he or she will not receive pay

Disciplinary Demotion – An involuntary disciplinary personnel action that reduces an employee’s salary within their current pay grade or places the employee in a position at a lower pay grade with or without lowering the employee’s salary

Gross Inefficiency (Grossly Inefficient Job Performance) – Failure to satisfactorily perform job requirements as set forth in the job description, work action plan, or as directed by a supervisor, department/division head, or the President. May also include incidents when an act or failure to act causes or results in:

  • Death or serious bodily injury or conditions that increase the chance for death or serious bodily injury to others; or

  • The loss of funds or property or damage to College property that results in a serious adverse impact on the College and/or work unit.

Involuntary Transfer – An involuntary transfer to another department, which could possibly result in a demotion or a lateral transfer

Inactive Disciplinary Action – A disciplinary action becomes inactive when it cannot be counted towards the number of prior disciplinary actions that must be received before further disciplinary action can be taken for unsatisfactory job performance when:

  • The supervisor notes in the employee’s personnel file that the reasons for the disciplinary action have been resolved or corrected;

  • The performance evaluation process documents a summary rating that reflects an acceptable level of performance overall and satisfactory performance in the area cited in the warning or other disciplinary action; or

  • Eighteen months have passed since the issuance of the warning or disciplinary action.

Insubordination – The willful failure or refusal to carry out a reasonable order from an authorized supervisor. Insubordination is unacceptable personal conduct for which any level of discipline, including dismissal, may be imposed without warning.

Termination – The involuntary dismissal of an employee for disciplinary reasons, unsatisfactory job performance, or for failure to obtain or maintain necessary job-related credentials

Unacceptable Personal Conduct – An act that is:

  • Conduct for which no reasonable person should expect to receive prior warning;

  • Job-related conduct which constitutes a violation of state or federal law;

  • Conviction for a felony or an offense involving moral turpitude that is detrimental to, or impacts, the employee’s service to the College;

  • The willful violation of known or written College policies or procedures;

  • Conduct unbecoming an employee of the College;

  • Absence from work after all authorized leave and benefits have been exhausted; or

  • Falsification of an employment application or other employment documentation.

Unsatisfactory Job Performance – Work-related performance that fails to satisfactorily meet job requirements as set forth in the relevant job description, work action plan, or as directed by an employee’s supervisor. When an employee fails to satisfactorily meet his or her job requirements, there may be just cause for disciplinary action based on the assumption that clear expectations related to job performance have been communicated to the employee.

A supervisor’s determination of unsatisfactory job performance must be reasonable, proper, documented, factually supported, and endorsed by the employee’s department/division heads. In determining whether an employee’s performance is unsatisfactory, the supervisor should consider any appropriate factors, including, but not limited to, those referenced in the College’s Performance Review and Evaluation Form and the following:

  • Quality of work

  • Quantity of work

  • Work habits (attention to detail, team/group dynamics, follow-through, time management, etc.)

  • Promptness

  • Timely performance of work

  • Related analysis, decision, or judgment

  • Accuracy of work

  • Performance of the employee’s work action plan and/or the performance appraisal

  • Absenteeism

  • Ability to follow instructions, directions, or procedures

  • Appropriateness of work

  • Conducting classes for the entire noted time

Work Action Plan – A formalized plan used to address unsatisfactory job performance and/or any additional training needs to help employees succeed in their positions

Working Days – Days the College is open and operating under a normal schedule. This excludes weekends, closings due to adverse conditions, and holidays.